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US limits visas for African, Asian nations over deportations

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The US State Department said it will stop issuing certain kinds of visas to citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone, because of their refusal to take back deported citizens.

The new policy was laid out in State Department cables by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed the restrictions have been imposed in all four countries effective Wednesday, according to AP.

The restrictions were first discussed by US officials last month, after the Department of Homeland Security recommended the State Department take action against the four nations for their refusal to cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

In its announcement about the visa sanctions, DHS said the four countries had not been reliable in issuing travel documents for their citizens. For this reason, “ICE has been forced to release into the United States approximately 2,137 Guinean and 831 Sierra Leone nationals, many with criminal convictions.”

DHS said there are approximately 700 Eritrean nationals residing in the US with final orders of removal. More than 1,900 Cambodian nationals are also subject to final order of removal, of those 1,412 have criminal convictions.

For Cambodians, restrictions on business and tourism will only affect foreign ministry officials with the post of director-general and above, along with their families.

The US Embassy in Eritrea will stop issuing business and tourism visas to Eritrean nationals, with “limited exceptions,” it said in a statement.

The West African nation of Guinea said the new restrictions on business, tourism and student visas will affect only government officials and immediate family members.

“We are all surprised by the American authorities’ decision by the American authorities’ decision but the foreign minister is at this moment working so that the situation returns to normal,” Guinea government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.

In Sierra Leone, restrictions on business and tourism visas will affect foreign ministry and immigration officials.

Visas already granted are not affected by the new rules.

There are a dozen other countries, among them China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Burma, Morocco and South Sudan, listed as being recalcitrant over accepting deportees. Federal law allows the State Department to stop all or specific types of visas from being issued to such nations.

The most recent instance was in October 2016, when the Obama administration stopped issuing visas to Gambian government officials and their families, because the government was not taking back US deportees from the Gambia.