US Issues Visa Restrictions to Eritrea, Guinea

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The United States will stop issuing certain visas to Eritrean nationals and Guinean officials as of Wednesday, the embassies in those countries announced Tuesday.

The new restrictions are aimed at four Asian and African nations that have refused to take back citizens who’ve been deported. Under federal law, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can stop all or specific types of visas from being issued to such nations.

The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said in a statement that it will stop issuing business and tourism visas to Eritrean nationals, with “limited exceptions.” Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment.

The East African nation is a major source of migrants who say they are fleeing a system of forced military conscription that repeatedly has been criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.

In the West African nation of Guinea, a U.S. Embassy statement said the new restrictions on business, tourism and student visas affect only government officials and immediate family members.

Cambodia and Sierra Leone also are expected to be affected by the visa restrictions, though there was no statement on those embassy websites Tuesday night.

U.S. officials first discussed the visa restrictions last month. The Department of Homeland Security said it had recommended the State Department take action against four nations out of a dozen it considers recalcitrant. Neither department would identify the nations by name.

It is not clear why only Cambodia, Eritrea and Guinea were selected for the sanctions or why Sierra Leone, which was last identified as “at risk” for recalcitrance, was included.

The State Department traditionally has been reluctant to impose visa sanctions because affected countries often retaliate through reciprocal restrictions on U.S. citizens and officials. The measures have only been imposed twice before, against Guyana and Gambia.

Other countries listed as being recalcitrant in accepting deportees from the U.S. include China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Burma, Morocco and South Sudan.

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