The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has yesterday 30th March, 2021 ordered the reduction of Visa sanctions on Sierra Leone in recognition of the Government of Sierra Leone’s increased assistance in facilitating the timely return home of its nationals who are subject to final orders of removal from the United States.
It can be recalled that on September 11, 2020, the U.S. Embassy Freetown discontinued issuing all immigrant visas for Sierra Leonean citizens and nationals applying in Freetown, with limited exceptions.
The action was taken pursuant to Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The sad development came after the Government of Sierra Leone reneged on an agreement to allow Sierra Leoneans deported by the USA to return to Sierra Leone.
The governments of the USA and Sierra Leone in 2017 entered into a repatriation agreement, whereby the government of Sierra Leone will issue travel documents to Sierra Leonean nationals that have been declared ‘persona non grata’ by the US government to return to Sierra Leone.
The U.S government usually charters flights that take deportees back to Sierra Leone, accompanied by armed US marshals.
But this arrangement came under immense strain a few months ago, when two deportees arriving in Sierra Leone claimed they were forced to go to Sierra Leone despite protesting to the US government that they are not Sierra Leonean nationals but Caribbeans.
The US government denied responsibility for that fiasco, instead blaming the government of Sierra Leone whose responsibility the US government says it is to check the nationality of all deportees before issuing them with travel documents to Sierra Leone.
The argument between the two governments over the repatriation of Sierra Leoneans from the USA and the government of Sierra Leone’s role in facilitating the process came to a head a few weeks ago when the government of Sierra Leone stopped issuing travel documents to deportees. In response, the US government slapped a ban on Sierra Leoneans travelling to the USA with a Sierra Leonean passport, bringing to a complete and devastating halt the possibility of Sierra Leoneans being able to obtain US visas