Gambia students finally granted US visas for robot battle



Thu, 06 Jul 2017 - 07:19 GMT


Thu, 06 Jul 2017 - 07:19 GMT

Mini Bot Robot War Battles - Wikimedia Commons

Mini Bot Robot War Battles - Wikimedia Commons

Banjul - Gambia - 6 July 2017: Five Gambian high school students denied US visas to attend an international robotics competition were on Thursday finally granted the right to travel, they told AFP.

The US authorities' decision to deny access to schoolchildren from Muslim-majority African and Asian nations from participating in the science competition follows the implementation of stricter visa policies since President Donald Trump took power.

"All of us in the robotics team were issued visas today by the consular officer at the US Embassy in Banjul," said Kaddijatou Gassama, 17. "We are taking our robots along with us."

The group from the tiny West African nation were initially rejected by the US Embassy in Banjul from joining peers from 160 countries at the FIRST Global Challenge in Washington, DC this month to show off their engineering skills.

The group expressed disappointment that their mentor Mohtarr Darboe would still not be allowed to accompany the team after being denied a visa for a second time by the embassy.

"We are the only team that is going to the event without a mentor," said Gassama.
Darboe "was a source of inspiration to us," said teammate Fatoumata Ceesay, also 17. "He is encouraging us to go and perform well at the games. He said he will be talking to us on Skype."

The competition held on July 16-18 is aimed at building interest and confidence in engineering and technology in schools worldwide. Africa has an acute shortage of qualified engineers, according to experts.

Forbes magazine reported last week that six girls from Herat, Afghanistan would be blocked from attending the robot battle, despite two rounds of interviews for a one-week visa.

Meanwhile in March, every single African due to attend the African Global Economic and Development Summit, a trade conference in California, had their visa request rejected, according to organisers.

The Trump administration ordered a travel ban that now explicitly targets visitors from six countries: Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Afghanistan and The Gambia are unaffected.



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