By Talibeh Hydara
The US Embassy in Banjul has confirmed to The Standard that a visa ban on Gambia Government officials could soon be lifted.
This reportedly follows the government’s acceptance to allow the return home of about 2,000 Gambians the US wanted deported.
The Jammeh Government had refused to accept these Gambians the U.S. was trying to deport, forcing the Obama administration to pull the trigger and refuse to grant visas to Gambia government officials, their families, and others associated with the government.
Delivering the news that ultimately affected hundreds of Gambian officials intending to visit the US since October last year, a State Department official said: “As of October 1, 2016, the US Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia has discontinued visa issuance to employees of the Gambian government, employees of certain entities associated with the government, and their spouses and children, with limited exceptions.”
But speaking to The Standard on Monday, Janel Heird, Public Affairs Officer at the Embassy in Banjul, said there are already encouraging steps by the new government to swiftly solve the problem.
“Yes, the Gambian Government has agreed to accept the return of its nationals who are not eligible to remain in the United States, as required by international law.
“Department of Homeland Security and State Department officials in Washington as well as officials here at the US Embassy in Banjul have been engaged with the Government of The Gambia on this matter.
The new Gambian government has been cooperative and we are encouraged that the Gambian government has taken steps which we hope will soon allow us to begin issuing visas once more,” Janel said.
The Gambia is the first country in 15 years to face such a penalty from the United States with Guyana incurring a similar wrath in 2001 but it cooperated in less than two months.
The American Thinker website last week quoted the Washington Times as stating: “After several months of negotiations, the Department of Homeland Security has successfully reduced the list of countries who refused US deportees from 20 to 12.
“Between cajoling, threats and actual punishments, Homeland Security has managed to drastically cut the number of countries that habitually refuse to take back immigrants whom the US is trying to deport, officials said Tuesday, notching an early immigration success for President Trump.
The number of recalcitrant countries has dropped from 20 to 12 over the months since the presidential election, and some longtime offenders – including Iraq and Somalia – have earned their way off the naughty list. The list of countries is the shortest this decade.”
While it stated that Guinea, Morocco and other countries are still blacklisted, it cited The Gambia together with Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone as being removed from the list.
Officials at the Gambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad were not available for immediate comment on the matter by the time we went to press last night.