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VisasU.S. will deny visas to Gambian officials for refusing to take back deported Gambians

Published 5 October 2016

The United States, responding to the refusal by The Gambia to accept some 2,000 Gambians the United States has been trying to deport, will deny visas to Gambian officials. DHS secretary Jeh Johnson made the decision, which is only the second time the United States used the denial of visas to force a country to accept its deported citizens (President Bush used it in 2001 against Guyana). More than twenty countries refuse to take back their citizens – with Cuba refusing to accept more than 30,000 Cubans ordered to leave the United States.

The United States, responding to the refusal by The Gambia to accept some 2,000 people the United States has been trying to deport, will deny visas to Gambians officials.

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson made the decision following years of pressure by lawmakers.

Johnson’s issued the instruction late last week, activating the law which requires the denial of visas to officials of countries refusing to accept their own citizens when these citizens are ordered deported from the United States.

“As of October 1, 2016, the U.S. 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,” a State Department official said.

Newsweek reports that some read the law to call for the denial of visas to all Gambian citizens, but that denying government officials and their families of visas sends a powerful message.

The law has been used only once before, against Guyana in 2001, leading to full cooperation by Guyana in about two months.

The Gambian embassy in Washington, D.C. says that there are 1,800 Gambian citizens who were ordered to leave the United States, adding that one sticking point is the refusal by the United States to pay for Gambian immigration officials to come to the United States to review the cases.

Other countries have refused to accept their citizens who were ordered to leave the United States underSection 243(d) of the immigration code.

More than 30,000 Cubans, most of them criminals, are awaiting deportation, but Cuba refuses to take them back. China is leading a list of more than twenty other countries identified by DHS as refusing to accept their citizens back.

The number of Gambian citizens awaiting deportation makes The Gambia No. 11 on the list of recalcitrant countries, with Cuba occupying the first place on the list.

The Gambia, and other countries on the list, typically question whether the people on the list are their citizens – and use this question as the reason for their refusal to issue travel documents.

Newsweek notes that in 2001, when the Bush administration announced the denial of visas to officials from Guyana, it took less than two months to clear a backlog of 113 immigrants – of which 112 were found to be citizens of Guyana.