US issues visa ban on Ghana for failing to accept deportees

Applying for a US visa will no longer be a straightforward process for Ghanaian nationals, for now at least.

The US department of homeland security (DHS) and department of state has issued visa sanctionson Ghana owing to its “lack of cooperation” in accepting its citizens ordered removed from the US. In a statement, secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen said Ghana has “denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States.”

As a result, the US has initially placed unspecified visa restrictions on certain categories of applicants from Ghana until cooperation on removals improves “to an acceptable level.” However, should Ghana fail to comply with the removal orders, DHS says the scope of the sanctions could be imposed more broadly.

Ghanaian citizens, a former British colony, are big fans of the American dream. In 2015, one of the most recent years for which data is available, Ghana, with 1.73 million people, accounted for the highest number of applicants for the US diversity visa program also known as “green card lottery”. Those applications would account for 7 per cent of the country’s 25 million population.

As the US continues to tighten its immigration policies, its immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) officials have been handed more powers to arrest and deport immigrants following the signing of two executive orders by president Donald Trump.

But ICE’s operation still require countries of origin of deportees to provide travel documents to facilitate their removal. When those documents are not provided, ICE faces the possibility of releasing the immigrants as the US constitution does not permit indefinite detention of prospective deportees.

For its part, Ghana’s US embassy has previously noted that the US was not providing it with enough paperwork and following due process to show that the intended deportees were indeed Ghanaian. In an interview with Ghanaian media during the United Nations General Assembly in September, Baffour Adjei Bawuah, Ghana’s ambassador to the US said the embassy had “difficulty just endorsing, as it were, a documentation when the embassy wouldn’t even have a basic information about the people who are being deported.” As such, “to just be given names and asking for proper documentation for them to be deported was a bit tough for any embassy,” he added.