US lifts visa restrictions on Gambian robotics students

Fatoumata Ceesay
Fatoumata Ceesay
Image caption
Fatoumata Ceesay is one of the Gambian team, who have created a robot to clean polluted water

Gambian students who were twice denied visas to travel to the US for a robotics competition are celebrating after permission was granted.

The team will now go to Washington DC and show off their invention.

The reasons for the initial rejections are unclear.

Gambia is a Muslim majority country but it is not on the US’s six-country travel ban, which was introduced by President Donald Trump.

One of the participants, Fatoumata Ceesay, 17, told BBC Newsday, the team was pleased to be able to travel.

Mucktarr Darboe is a director at the ministry of higher education, and the US has a ban on granting visas to employees of the Gambian government after a deportation row last year.

Earlier this week, an all-girl team of roboticists from Afghanistan were denied US visas to travel to the same competition.

 The Gambian robot has been devised to clean contaminated rivers.It was designed for the First Global competition, which has seen teams from 164 countries compete in a series of robotic games.

The culminating three-day US event starts on 16 July.

The non-profit organisation aims to promote Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“I hope to come back with knowledge and inspiration to give young Gambians, especially the girls,” said Ms Ceesay.

She said many people her age aspired to careers in medicine and “engineering is lagging behind”. She hopes success stories like that of her team will highlight Gambia’s potential to innovate.

Neither Afghanistan nor Gambia is part of the US’s so-called travel ban, which affects people from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.

“We are excited and happy, but also disheartened, because we are not going with our mentor because he is a government official,” she said.


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