The U.S. Embassy in Banjul said Monday Gambians can continue to seek entry into the United States and apply for visas at its Banjul post. The consular services will remain open following Saturday’s announcement by the U.S. State Department restricting issuance of visas to government officials and their relatives.
“Consular operations at the U.S. Embassy in Banjul remain open. Visa operations will be conducted as usual, with the exception of cases in government and government-related categories that cannot be issued until restrictions have been lifted,” a statement from the post said.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson put in place directives that restrict Gambian government officials, their families and associates in businesses affiliated with the government from entering the United States.
The State Department said it will make some exceptions for travel based on U.S. international obligations and to advance humanitarian and other U.S. government interests.
The U.S. last placed such restrictions on Guyana, which quickly complied to Washington’s demands.
The Gambia has refused to issue travel documents to about 2000 of its citizens who are expected to be deported to the West African nation.
Gambian officials said only 11 of its citizens are being deported for committing crimes in the United States and urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to cover the cost of having Gambian immigration officials to come in from Banjul to identify citizens.
A handful of Gambians are currently being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and have exhausted all legal appeals to remain in the North American nation with more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“These Gambian citizens have all been afforded full access to the U.S. legal system but have exhausted all possible legal appeals. We want to return them to their families in The Gambia, but the Gambian government must provide passports or other travel documents so that we can do so,” the U.S. government said.
Washington maintains that until travel documents are issued for Gambians ordered deported from the U.S., they will not issue visas to Gambian government officials. Though the consular services remain open for visa applicants, continued refusal to issue the travel documents from Banjul may lead to the restriction being applied to all Gambians.
Relations between The Gambia and the United States were strained over the country’s rights issues, meaning there could be more to the visa restrictions than just immigration matters. Human rights activists and groups have been working on having visa bans imposed on Gambia government officials over the years.