The United States of America has imposed visa sanctions on Ghana due to the West African country’s refusal to accept its nationals deported from the US. This is a serious warning to other countries with a high number of citizens deported from the US, including Nigeria.
Today’s Echo reported on Friday that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” said DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“In addition, consular officers will limit the validity period and number of entries on new tourist and business visas (B1, B2, and B1/B2) for all Ghanaian executive and legislative branch employees, their spouses, and their children under 21 to one-month, single-entry visas,” the DHS statement said
“Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population,” it added.
It said those affected by the ban would include the domestic staff of diplomats posted to the US.
Washington said it had been discussing the matter with the Ghanaian authorities since July 2016.
Some 7,000 Ghanaians are living illegally in the United States, according to the US embassy in Accra.
Ghana has protested against what it seems as arbitrary deportations of people from the United States to its soil. In October 2018, US plans to deport at least 7,000 Ghanaians living there illegally met stiff resistance from Ghana’s government.
According to media reports, the US wanted an agreement with Ghana to deport illegal immigrants within 24hours on a chartered flight. They also wanted the Ghana government to issue a certain number of travel documents per week.
Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey had insisted that Ghana would not facilitate the deportations despite weeks of diplomatic pressure from the US.
If the US decides to widen the scope, these sanctions will be a serious concern to several Ghanaians planning to travel to the US.
The United States imposed similar sanctions on Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in 2017
Warning to Nigeria
One of the countries with citizens who love to migrate to the US and also has several deportees from America is nearby Nigeria. Since Donald Trump became president, the United States has ramped up its deportation of foreign citizens from third world countries, including Nigeria.
According to the International centre for Investigative Reporting, a minimum of 1,549 Nigerians were sent back to Nigeria in October 2017. This number is likely to grow as Trump ramps up his nationalistic policy of ‘America First’
This is not to say that every deportation has been unjustly done. Illegal immigration and crimes are top on the list of reasons for the deportation of Africans by the US.
The latest development between the US and Ghana poses a serious warning to the Nigerian government and Nigerian citizens. It is likely that the US will apply more pressure on the Nigerian government to accept more of its deported citizens even when deportation seems to be unjustly done or when the citizenship of deportees has not been confirmed to be Nigerian.
Nigerians love to travel to the US and it is will be interesting to watch how the government reacts to the pressure from the US.
Ghana and Nigeria have many similarities, but Nigeria has not been resistant to deportation as Ghana. Therefore, it is unlikely that the US will impose the same sanctions on the West African giant soon.
Nevertheless, we can expect an increase in deportation and a reduction in visa issuance to Nigerians due to increasing nationalism in the US.
According to the ICIR, more than 7,600 Nigerian migrants have returned home since the launch of a humanitarian voluntary return programme for the protection and reintegration of migrants in the country on May 20, 2017.