President Trump greets Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari, during a meeting in New York in September 2017. Nigeria is the most affected by the new policy as more than 8,000 of its nationals are issued immigrant visas annually / Photo: NAN

US imposes new travel restrictions on Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, two others

President Donald Trump has added Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania as well as Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to the list of countries to face stringent travel restrictions to the United States, according to an official announcement on Friday.

In line with the new policy, immigrant visas, issued to those seeking to live permanently in the United States, will be banned for Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. The new restrictions will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the United States through the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people a year.

A US official said the new measures were the result of failures by the six countries to meet American security and information-sharing standards.

“These countries, for the most part, want to be helpful but for a variety of different reasons simply failed to meet those minimum requirements that we laid out,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told reporters on Friday. He said officials would work with the countries on bolstering their security requirements to help them get off the list.

The policy will take effect on 22 February. Immigrants who obtain visas before then will still be able to travel to the United States, officials said. Non-immigrant visas given to people for temporary stays – including visitors, those doing business or people seeking medical treatment – would not be impacted by the new rules.

Persons who fall within the categories affected by the ban will be able to apply for waivers from the restrictions. The Trump administration has said waivers would be issued to those who would experience undue hardship if denied entry into the United States, although the process has been criticised as opaque.

Critics of the new policy, including Democrats and immigration rights groups, point to the fact that the new bans were made as the 2020 US general election heats up. Trump is expected to use his travel ban, as well as his efforts to cut refugee admissions, to rally his political base as his administration contends with a Senate impeachment trial.

In 2018, the US issued more than 8,000 immigration visas to citizens of Nigeria, just over 2,000 to Sudanese, 290 to Tanzanians and just 31 to Eritreans. The US had previously announced a ban on certain types of visas for Eritreans in 2017.

President Trump’s original travel ban was issued earlier in 2017, affecting citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea.

The total number of countries on the restricted US travel list now stands at 13.

Adira Kallo

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