Nigerians Decry New U.S. Travel Restrictions

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama deliver statements to the press, at the Department of State, in Washington D.C., on February 4, 2020.

The new U.S. travel restrictions imposed on Nigeria are being criticized by Nigerians who for decades have viewed the U.S. as a close ally.

Before the announcement of new travel restrictions last week, the U.S. had already applied stricter measures on visa applications, including suspension of visa interview waivers and a hike in application fees.

The new ban disallows the issuance of immigrant visas that offer Nigerians a chance at permanent residency in the U.S. It is seen part of a broader effort by the administration of President Donald Trump to cut down on immigration.

Nigerians like Taiwo Charles, who runs a travel agency in Abuja, say the U.S. clampdown is negatively affecting businesses.

"If people are being banned at the embassy, they come back to us with nothing. We cannot get international flight ticket, we cannot do their visa documentations, we cannot do a lot. So this affects our industry, the traffic of people traveling to that axis will be greatly reduced,” said Charles.

The ban does not affect tourism, business and student travel but could limit chances for Nigerians to live with relatives who are already in the U.S.

Expansion of US Travel Restrictions Explained

The amended executive order, which takes effect Feb. 21, still maintains restrictions on some citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says affected countries like Nigeria did not meet U.S. security standards and have failed to share adequate security intelligence.

Economic analyst Eze Onyekpere says this ban will have an economic impact.

"Diaspora remittances to Nigeria is about $25 billion, which is quite huge, and more or less the same amount equivalent of our annual budget. You will know that a good part of these remittances comes from the United States. So if the opportunity to increase the number of immigrants, who could as well do those remittances, is closed, definitely it will tell not just on the government but also on the living conditions the average Nigerians who have their brothers and sisters out there,“ Onyekpere said.

However, Abuja resident Anthony Ekpenkhio, who visited the U.S. for the delivery of his baby three years ago, says the ban was predictable.

“I actually saw it coming when he (Trump) started to complain about foreigners coming into the U.S. to give birth. He’s been talking about that ever since he came into power. So anyone who knows Trump should’ve envisaged that this was already coming. And of course Nigeria, being one of the most populous nations in Africa, and has one of the largest influx of people into the U.S., especially with the intent to have children, so for that reason, he would naturally want to target a country like Nigeria," Ekpenkhio said.

Critics say the expanded U.S. travel restrictions by are aimed at boosting Trump’s chances in the November presidential election, where immigration will be a major subject.

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