US visa ban on Ghana for failing to accept deportees

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YOMI KAZEEM

Applying for a US visa will no longer be a straightforward process for Ghanaian nationals, for now at least.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State has issued visa sanctions on Ghana owing to its “lack of cooperation” in accepting its citizens ordered removed from the US. In a statement, the secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen said Ghana has “denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States.”

As a result, the US has initially placed unspecified visa restrictions on certain categories of applicants from Ghana until cooperation on removals improves “to an acceptable level.” However, should Ghana fail to comply with the removal orders, DHS says the scope of the sanctions could be imposed more broadly.

Ghanaian citizens, a former British colony, are big fans of the American dream. In 2015, one of the most recent years for which data is available, Ghana, with 1,73 million candidates, accounted for the highest number of applicants for the US diversity visa programme also known as “green card lottery”. Those applications would account for 7% of the country’s 25 million population.

As the US continues to tighten its immigration policies, immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) officials have been handed more powers to arrest and deport immigrants following the signing of two executive orders by President Donald Trump. But ICE’s operation still require countries of origin of deportees to provide travel documents to facilitate their removal. When those documents are not provided, ICE faces the possibility of releasing the immigrants as the US constitution does not permit indefinite detention of prospective deportees.

For its part, Ghana’s US embassy has previously noted that the US was not providing it with enough paperwork and following due process to show that the intended deportees were indeed Ghanaian.

In an interview with Ghanaian media during the United Nations General Assembly in September, Baffour Adjei Bawuah, Ghana’s ambassador to the US, said the embassy had “difficulty just endorsing, as it were, a documentation when the embassy wouldn’t even have a basic information about the people who are being deported.”

As such, “to just be given names and asking for proper documentation for them to be deported was a bit tough for any embassy,” he added.Trump’s homeland security department has been attempting to match the president’s aggressive migrant rhetoric with policy tweaks that could help accelerate the expulsion of illegal migrants while also restricting entry of new ones. In 2017, ICE removed more African migrants than any other group, even as overall removals fell.

It is not the first time the US has issued similar visa restrictions on African countries. In 2017, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Eritrea were all issued visa restrictions for failing to comply with removal orders for nationals. The restrictions ranged from tourist, business, exchange and student visas

for government officials and their families. Eritrea was the worst hit though as all its nationals were disallowed from applying for tourist B visas. -Quartz