The Federal Government has advised Nigerians against visiting the United States of America at the moment except for crucial matters as a result of the lack of clarity in the country’s new immigration rules.
The advisory was sequel to the barring of some Nigerians, with valid US visas, from entering the US in recent weeks.
“At least, four Nigerians with valid visas were denied entry to the US within the last two weeks and sent back to the country on the next available flights,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, told The PUNCH on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, Dabiri-Erewa advised Nigerians without any compelling or essential reasons to visit the US to consider delaying their trip “until there is clarity in the new immigration policy.”
She added, “In the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry US visas, being denied entry and sent back to Nigeria.
“In such cases reported to the office, the affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flights and their visas were cancelled.”
She reminded Nigerians in the Diaspora to abide by the rules and regulations of their host countries and be good ambassadors of the country.
Francis Adekola, who was affected by the immigration restriction, explained that he was prevented from attending a friend’s wedding in Mississippi on February 15, 2017.
Narrating his bitter experience, Adekola said he was detained for over 10 hours before he was placed on aircraft and returned to Abuja via Johannesburg.
He said, “I travelled to the US on February 15, but when we got to the Atlanta airport, where I was to connect another flight, I was asked to step aside at the check-in counter by an armed border protection officer.
“He walked me to the luggage section and searched my wallet and bag. He also collected my telephone (set) and went through the contents: SMSes, pictures, WhatsApp chats, everything.”
Adekola, who recently finished his Ph.D at a Canadian university, said he was informed by the immigration agent that he did not have strong ties in Nigeria and that he might not go back home if allowed into the US.
Though he was allowed to speak to someone in the US, he stated that he was still prevented from entering America.
Adekola added that his mobile was not returned to him until he got to Johannesburg.
“My documents were not released to me until the plane was airborne on its way to Abuja even though my home was in Lagos,” he said.
He explained that he saw some nationals of other countries, who were also denied entry to the US, noting that the wasted trip cost him over N1m in airfare.
The US embassy could not be reached for comment as it had yet to respond to an email, sent to it, seeking its reaction to the barring of Nigerians.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also unavailable for comment.
Its spokesman, Clement Aduku, did not return calls to his mobile and had yet to respond to an SMS as of the time of filing this report on Monday.
Trump signs new executive order
The US President, Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 27, 2017, barring people from seven, Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the US for 90 days.
It also stopped all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees permanently.
The ban caused global outrage as well as chaos across the US before it was frozen by a legal ruling.
The US Mission to Nigeria had earlier assured Nigerians that the executive order on immigration would not affect Nigerians, noting that visa applicants would continue to get two-year multiple entry visas as before.
It also said the order would not affect the validity of visas held by Nigerians, noting that its visa policy to Nigeria had not changed.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, and the US Consular Chief, Meghan Moore, had explained to journalists on February 3, 2017 that the US visa policy was based on reciprocity, stressing that Nigerians would not be discriminated against.
Trump signs new travel ban, exempts Iraq
Meanwhile, Trump signed a new executive order on Monday barring immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, dropping Iraq from the January’s previous order, and reinstating a temporary blanket ban on all refugees.
It removed language in the original order that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and called for prioritising the admission of refugees, who are religious minorities in their home countries.
That provision drew criticism of a religious test for entry and would have prioritised Christians over Muslims fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East.
The new ban, which takes effect on March 16, also explicitly exempts citizens of the six banned countries, who are legal US permanent residents or have valid visas to enter the US – including those whose visas were revoked during the original implementation of the ban, senior administration officials said.
“We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly or when those governments actively support terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday.
The new measures will block citizens of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from obtaining visas for at least 90 days.
The order also suspends admission of refugees into the US for 120 days, directing US officials to improve vetting measures for a programme that is already widely regarded as extremely stringent.
Trump signed the executive order in the Oval Office outside the view of reporters and news cameras, after more than three weeks of repeated delays, the latest of which came after White House officials decided last week to delay the signing to avoid cutting into positive coverage of Trump’s joint address to Congress.