United States lift visa restrictions on Gambia

United States lift visa restrictions on Gambia

The Trump administration has lifted travel restrictions on the West African nation of the Gambia, the second nation to have been hit with visa limitations over refusal to accept deported citizens.

The restrictions, which were imposed by the Obama Homeland Security Department last year ahead of Gambia’s crucial presidential elections banned Gambian officials and their families from traveling to the U.S.

Relations between former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and the U.S. were sour over human rights concerned. Jammeh was defeated in the polls by realtor and opposition rival, Adama Barrow.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that Banjul took steps to ensure its citizens ordered to leave the United States are accepted upon deportation and the stipulations removed as of December 12.

Relations between The Gambia and the United States have improved since Barrow came to power. Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ousainou Darboe was in Washington, where he took part in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and held talks with senior U.S. State Department officials.

The lifted restrictions also affected ordinary Gambians. The U.S. Embassy in Banjul declined to issue visas to more than 75 percent of Gambian visa seekers, including students.

At least 2,611 Gambians have been denied non-immigrant U.S. visa, according to State Department statistics at its post in Banjul. About 3,452 people applied for entry into the United States and visas were granted to less than 1,000 people.

While the ban on The Gambia has been removed, the Trump administration is planning to impose a similar visa sanction on four countries — Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone that refuse to take back their citizens.

The U.S. has also hinted it will re-enlist the Gambia for eligibility for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a program designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world through which most of Washington’s foreign aid is channeled.

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