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U.S. blocks immigrant visa for citizens of Nigeria, five others

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The United States (US), yesterday, announced its anticipated travel restriction on Nigeria and its citizens, alongside nationals of five other countries, blocking them from migrating to the US to live.

The policy also blocks immigration from Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan in an expansion of its controversial policy blocking travel from seven other nations announced when President Donald Trump took office. According to an online platform quoting a report by the Washington Street Journal, in the new policy, the citizens of these countries would not be able to apply for any category of visas that would allow them to live lawfully in the US anymore.

The administration said it designed the new policy to tighten security for countries that do not comply with the US minimum security standard or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.

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Acting Homeland Security Secretary, Chad Wolf, said during a call with reporters yesterday that the targeted immigrant visas are distinct from non-immigrant visas typically issued to visitors, which would not be impacted by the ban. A Reuters report quoting Wolf said the US government would also stop issuing “diversity visas” to nationals of Sudan and Tanzania. The visas, which Trump has criticised in the past, are available by lottery for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

Wolf said the six countries failed to meet US security and information-sharing standards, which necessitated the new restrictions. The problems, Wolf cited ranged from sub-par passport technology to a failure to sufficiently exchange information on terrorism suspects and criminals, adding: “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.”

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The original travel ban, issued during Trump’s first week in office in January 2017, barred nearly all immigrants and travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations. The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the US Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in June 2018.

The existing version of the ban includes the Muslim-majority nations of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. North Korea and Venezuela also face visa restrictions, but those measures affect relatively few travellers. Those restrictions would remain in place, Wolf said. Trump has made his immigration crackdown a focus of his 2020 reelection campaign and is expected to press the issue in the months ahead.
Critics contend the ban disproportionately targets Muslim-majority nations.

In 2015, during his campaign for president, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”Three of the nations included in the updated ban- Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Sudan- have majority Muslim populations, while Eritrea and Tanzania have sizable Muslim minorities.

Of the new countries hit with visa restrictions, Nigeria sends the most immigrants to the US. The US State Department issued approximately 7,900 immigrant visas to Nigerians in the fiscal year 2018, which began October 1, 2017. Congressman Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado and son of Eritrean refugees, told reporters yesterday that the updated ban unfairly singled out allied African nations. Belarus, which had been under consideration for inclusion in the expanded travel ban, took steps to remedy deficiencies in recent months and would not face visa restrictions, Wolf said yesterday.

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