US Denies Visas for Gambian, Afghan Robotics Teams

05 July, 2017

The United States has denied visas to a team of Gambian students to attend a major international robotics competition.

The event takes place in Washington, D.C. later this month.

Mucktarr M.Y. Darboe is the Gambian team's leader and a government official in education. He told the Associated Press (AP) that the students were not given a reason for the visa denials. He called the decision "disappointing and unfair."

The Gambia team is not alone. A few days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan also denied visas for an all-girls robotics team. The Afghan team was also not given a reason.

In May, students from several West African nations gathered to participate in the Pan-African Robotics Competition.
In May, students from several West African nations gathered to participate in the Pan-African Robotics Competition.

Fatoumata Ceesay is a member of the Gambian robotics team. She said, "It's very disappointing knowing that we are the only two countries that aren't going to take part in the competition."

The robotics of the two teams will still be part of the competition. But the teams can only watch the event over Skype after spending months working on their projects.

"It would be an experience to see and discover other robots and ask questions and exchange ideas with others. It's more than 160 countries so we'd have the chance to mingle," Ceesay said.

The Gambian and Afghan students are especially confused because teams from Iran and Sudan, and a group of Syrian refugees, received visas. All three Muslim-majority countries are on President Donald Trump's travel ban. Afghanistan and Gambia are not.

Lida Azizi is a 17-year old from Herat, Afghanistan. She calls the visa rejection "a clear insult for the people of Afghanistan."

The U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and the Gambia and the State Department say they cannot discuss visa requests.

The Associated Press reported that the Gambia's government has provided money for a second round of U.S. visa applications for the team. It costs more than $160 for each student to travel and apply for the visa interview.

The students were scheduled to have these visa interviews on Wednesday. "We will go for an interview and hope for the best," Darboe told AP.

I'm Alice Bryant.


Words in This Story

disappointingadj. making someone unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

minglev. to move around during a meeting, event, or party and talk informally with different people

contaminantn. something that makes a place or a substance (such as water, air, or food) no longer suitable for use