Eritrea expresses ‘dismay’ at new US visa restrictions

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The East African nation of Eritrea yesterday expressed “dismay at this unfriendly act” after the Trump administration included it in the latest six countries to face United States (US) visa restrictions.

Eritrea’s information ministry asserted the US decision was made “without justification to send a negative signal” and runs counter to US policy of constructive engagement.

The Trump administration recently announced various visa restrictions on immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania as well. It is not a total travel ban, unlike President Donald Trump’s earlier effort.

Some in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, have expressed outrage while the government issued a brief statement saying it would study the US requirements.

The restrictions go into effect February 21 as Trump tries to promote his crackdown on immigration ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off nations, is a significant source of migrants headed to Europe and elsewhere as thousands flee what they and human rights groups call a harsh system of forced national service.

There has been no sign of that system easing since Eritrea made peace with neighbouring Ethiopia in 2018, removing the major reason for the system’s existence.

The new Eritrea statement again criticised what it called “automatic asylum” measures by some countries for people who flee.

Eritrea, Nigeria and Kyrgyzstan will have all immigrant visas suspended; those are applicants seeking to live in the US permanently. They include visas for people sponsored by family members or employers as well as the diversity visa programme that made up to 55,000 US visas available in the most recent lottery.

Not affected are non-immigrant visas awarded to those travelling to the US for a temporary stay. They include visas for tourists, those doing business or people seeking medical treatment.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said officials would work with the countries on bolstering their security requirements to help them work to get off the list. He said officials examined countries for compliance with minimum standards for identification and information-sharing, and assessed whether countries properly tracked terrorism or public safety risks.