The Trump administration has given positive signals that the visa ban imposed on Gambian officials will be lifted, Press Secretary Amie Bojang-Sissoho said.
The Obama government placed visa restrictions on Gambian officials and their families in 2016, a decision that forced the then-government of Yahya Jammeh to accept citizens under deportation.
Although the U.S. has regularly kept a list of countries considered recalcitrant, only two countries have previously received sanctions under the law: Guyana, in 2001, and The Gambia, in 2016.
In both cases, U.S. visas were restricted for certain government and diplomatic employees and their families, and would only be lifted after the Department of Homeland Security is satisfied that the country is cooperating.
Relations between The Gambia and the U.S. under former President Barack Obama and Gambian ruler, Yahya Jammeh were not cordial and worsened after Jammeh’s security detailed assaulted activists outside a hotel just a couple of hundred feet from the White House.
Jammeh was defeated in last year’s elections by real estate entrepreneur, Adama Barrow. Barrow has since made it a priority to mend Gambia’s broken relations and have the U.S. visa restriction lifted.
Gambia’s Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe continued his predecessor’s policy of cooperation with the U.S. to have the restrictions removed.
While The Gambia has received a positive feedback the restrictions will be removed, the Trump administration will impose visa sanctions on four countries that refuse to take back foreign nationals deemed to be in the U.S. illegally, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Dave Lapan said.
The four countries — Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to a DHS source close to the deliberations — come from a running list of countries the US designates as “recalcitrant” for not accepting, or delaying, repatriation of their own citizens after the US has tried to deport them.
Darboe was in Washington last week, where he joined other African ministers in Washington in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussing trade, security, and good governance.
Before the ban, Gambia has not accepted citizens under deportation for at least four years. Its economy is heavily reliant on remittances. It makes up at least 22 percent of the GDP. Gambians abroad wired more than $120 million to the small West African state last year alone, making the more than 120 thousand of its citizens abroad a critical economic bloc.