By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – THE Presidency has said Nigeria will need to get proper briefing before reacting to the reported travel ban plan by the United States (U.S.) government.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu, in a terse statement on Wednesday evening, said Nigeria would not react to such diplomatic development based on just media report.
According to him, the government would take its time to watch how the said development unfolds, take a study and analysis of its expected reach and effect before giving an official reaction.
Garba said: “Yes, we have read the news that the Trump administration is planning to add a host of African, Asian and Eastern European countries to its travel restrictions list as reported by the U.S. media.
“We are not going to react to speculations. We urge you to wait for us to see what unfolds under the new policy, its scope, its reach, the implications and its consequences before we react”, he said.
Media reports on Wednesday indicated that the Trump administration planned to add Nigeria, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania to a group of nations subject to travel restrictions.
Unlike the initial list, most of the new countries don’t have majority-Muslim populations. Several of them, however, have had relatively higher rates of their citizens overstaying visas in the U.S., according to DHS data.
In the 2018 fiscal year, 24% of Eritreans on business or visitor visas overstayed their permits, along with 15% of Nigerians and 12% of people from Sudan. Those compared with a total overstay rate in the category of 1.9%.
The names of the seven countries were first reported by Politico.
The countries wouldn’t necessarily face blanket bans on travel to the U.S., but could have restrictions placed on specific types of visas, such as business or visitor visas, administration officials said.
Some countries could be banned from participating in the diversity visa lottery programme, which awards green cards to people in countries with low levels of immigration to the U.S.
Trump had called for an end to that programme, saying it allows undesirable people into the U.S., and he proposed reorienting the existing visa system toward skilled workers instead.
The officials said the list isn’t final, adding that the White House was still debating whether to include one or two of the countries.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to request for comment. The State Department declined to comment.
The administration plans to roll out its expanded travel restrictions on Monday, marking the three-year anniversary of the initial travel ban Trump signed on his seventh day in office. The move sparked controversy at the beginning of his term.
The administration has said its policy restricting travel is necessary to prevent potential acts of terrorism, as countries on the list don’t adequately vet their travellers to the U.S.
The first order, which banned travel to the U.S. by most residents of seven majority-Muslim countries, was struck down by a federal court and withdrawn. A second iteration of the ban, issued in March 2017, was also struck down by a federal judge, who said it still amounted to religious discrimination against Muslims.
A third version of the policy, issued in September 2017, was upheld by a divided Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling in June 2018 on the grounds that federal law gives the president broad authority to suspend entry to the U.S.
Those current restrictions blocked travel by individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea, and by political officials from Venezuela. The administration briefly included Chad on the ban list, but removed the country in April 2018.
Immigrant-rights groups criticised the planned expansion of the policy to new countries. “Tens of thousands of American families are already hurting and separated because of this bigoted and cruel ban. Doubling down on it won’t make any of us safer,” said Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates, a nonprofit civil-rights organisation.
Culled from The Nation