Students from Gambia and Afghanistan Denied Visas to Compete in Robotics...


Students from Gambia and Afghanistan Denied Visas to Compete in Robotics Competition

Jul 5, 2017

ROBOTICS VISAS DENIED: Students from The Gambia and Afghanistan were recently denied visas to compete in the FIRST Global’s international robotics competition, according to reports from Reuters and Al Jazeera. The contest calls itself “the Olympics-style robotics competition, where one team from every nation is invited to participate.”

The Gambian team, including five students and the Afghanistan team including six girls both, expressed disappointment and confusion by the embassy’s decision.

“We still don’t know the reason why we were not granted visas because other countries participating in the competition have been given visas,” said 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan (a member of the all-girls Afghani team) told Reuters.

The visa denials have garnered lots of attention in light of President Trump’s controversial travel ban, which was partially reinstated by the Supreme Court last month. However, Afghanistan is not one of the six countries on the travel ban list. Members from countries on the list such as Iran, Sudan, and Syria were given visas and will participate, explained FIRST Global President, Joe Sestak in a statement on Facebook.

Sestak says his team does not know the reason for the visa denials and outlets reported that the State Department refused to comment on individual visa decisions.

“Last month I spoke with Team Afghanistan—as I also did the day after they did not gain approval a second time. I reminded them that I was prepared to ship their robot back to America, where a group of young Afghan girls here in the United States would learn to operate their completed robot on the practice field we already built for them,” says Sestak in a prepared statement. He also intends to ship the Gambian team’s robot into the competition and Skype both teams into the event.

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