The U.S. State Department’s refusal to issue visas to two teams of students from The Gambia and Afghanistan has dismayed many progressives.
Most members of teams were girls competing in a prestigious international robotics contest in Washington.
They found the rejection very disheartening but continued to make their robots and had their work submitted.
For months, the team has worked on a machine that sorts balls as part of an effort to simulate solutions for separating contaminates from water.
A visit to the team by U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia, Patricia Alsup gave hope to the teens in Gambia that the visa consular in Banjul may change his mind.
Progressives say promising young children like the Gambia and Afghan’s robotic teens should be encouraged and should be issued visas as an indication of U.S. interest in seeing these nations develop.
Gambia has a high visa rejection rate, pegged at 75.64% since 2015, one of the highest in Africa by U.S. visa consular.
Less than a 1,000 people out of more than 3,400 visa applicants were granted non-immigrant visas yearly.
Afghanistan has had a U.S. visa refusal rate of 75 percent, according to State Department figures.
Some accuse the U.S. of milking money out of Africa with its visa scheme. Applicants pay at least $160 in The Gambia to apply for a U.S. visa.
Gambia’s spend more than half a million dollars (D22 million dalasis) in visa application fees to the U.S. mission in Banjul.
U.S. President Donald Trump is cracking down on immigration and has put a ban and strong restrictions on arrivals from six majority Muslim nations.
The Gambia and Afghan, although Muslim-majority countries were not affected by the ban but were the only two countries, whose teams were denied visas.
The organizers of the competition, First Global expressed shock at the decision of the State Department and says it is looking to have the competition transferred elsewhere.
The Gambia and Afghan team are reapplying for visas but little optimism. They say they may have to take part in robotics event via Skype.