U.S. To Cancel Visas To Sierra Leoneans

The United States Department of State has declared that the United States of America will not issue almost all immigrant and non-immigrant visas to Sierra Leoneans applying at the Embassy in Freetown.

This, the release said, is due to continued delays by the Government of Sierra Leone to accept its citizens who are subject to a final order of removal.

Controversy has reigned between USA and the Sierra Leone Immigration running back to 2017 over the issue of the USA’s decision to deport to Sierra Leone felons that the Immigration Department maintained are not Sierra Leoneans, even when they are said to be carriers of the country’s passport. The US threatened to deny immigration and other government officials visas to enter the US if the government did not back down.

As the standoff continues, on Wednesday, 14th August, 2019, sixteen deportees arrived at Lungi Airport from the US.  The Police spokesman said they were deported for alleged criminal and other immigration-related offences.

In August last year, Saren Idaho who said he had no connection to Sierra Leone and had never been to the country was deported. Prince Latoya, 47, was on the same deportation flight and is in the same situation.  They were among 17 Sierra Leoneans who had been convicted of committing crimes in the US. They ended up on that flight after staffs at Sierra Leone’s embassy in Washington DC were put under pressure by US officials.

Both men, who had never met before coming to Sierra Leone, were long-term residents of the US. But they said they were originally from the Caribbean, which the US authorities dispute.

Isha Sillah, Director for the Americas and the Pacific at the foreign ministry here said that the US immigration authorities submitted documents to the embassy that the two men were from Sierra Leone. Without cross-checking, embassy officials issued them each with an Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC) and said they did so because of pressure piled on them by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to accept them as Sierra Leoneans.

American authorities denied, stating that in fact, Sierra Leone has a history of refusing to issue travel documents for its citizens, a situation which put the country under temporary US visa sanctions in 2017.