US B1 and B2 visa sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone have been partially lifted, the US government has announced. 71st US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, confirmed the move in recognition of Sierra Leone’s increased assistance in accepting back nationals subject to removal from the United States.
The sanctions were imposed by former US President, Donald Trump, in 2017. At the time, Trump accused Sierra Leone’s government of refusing or ‘unreasonably’ delaying the return of citizens, subjects, nationals or residents set to be deported from the US.
The issue became heated in September 2020, when the US announced that its ban on B1 and B2 visa access for Sierra Leone would be extended. Sierra Leone’s government protested against the extension, claiming that it had been ‘co-operating with the US’ over accepting back its people deported from the US.
Junior government officials
The original sanctions targeted junior level government officials, mainly from Sierra Leone’s Foreign Ministry and Immigration Department. However, when the extension was announced in September, the US Department of State (DoS) informed Sierra Leone’s government that the sanctions would include immigrant and non-immigrant visas for all Sierra Leoneans.
According to a statement announcing the partial lifting of restrictions, which came into effect on March 31, the US Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, said: “We will resume all immigrant and most non-immigrant visas to qualified Sierra Leoneans.”
“However sanctions will continue to apply to B1, B2, and B1/B2 non-immigrant visas for officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Department until the Secretary of Homeland Security determines otherwise.”
Sierra Leone improvements
The US Ambassador for Sierra Leone, David Reimer, said: “We recognise and appreciate the government of Sierra Leone’s improvements on removals issues and trust that the government will continue to work with us in establishing a mutually-agreeable process for accepting Sierra Leonean nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States.”
As of September 2020, between 1,300 and 1,600 Sierra Leoneans in the US were awaiting deportation, according to official data.
Similar sanctions were imposed on Sierra Leone during the administration of Ernest Bai Koroma, the former President of the African nation.
Under the current administration of President Julius Maada Bio, Sierra Leone has reportedly changed its stance on taking back people deported from the US.
However, Foreign Affairs Ministry officials accused the Sierra Leonean government of attempting to delay returns with lengthy screening procedures and using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to stop accepting people removed from the US and returned to Sierra Leone.
Accepting people back into Sierra Leone when they have been deported from another country sparks a huge public outcry in the African nation, which has huge political ramifications for the government.
Meanwhile, there are some reports that claim some people on US deportation lists are not from Sierra Leone at all. The government in Sierra Leone claims that many have acquired false documentation having sought asylum when pretending to be victims of the African country’s civil war.
Two decades since the civil war ended, reports indicate that people are still buying fake Sierra Leone passports.
There’s evidence to suggest that Sierra Leone passports are widely abused. In some cases, passports are issued indiscriminately by rogue Immigration and Foreign Affairs Ministry agents.
Illegal syndicate broken up
A joint operation run by the US Embassy in Freetown and the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone in 2018, shutdown a major syndicate that involved the illegal issuance of diplomatic and ministerial passports. Eight people were arrested, including a top government official serving under the Ernest Bai Koroma administration.
The former Head of Immigration for the Koroma government has also been declared wanted and was the subject of an extradition order from the United Kingdom in connection with the joint operation.
Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas
Workpermit.com is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details. You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.