After Rejection, Gambian Robotics Team Finally Allowed To Travel To US

The Trump administration seems to have changed its mind as a group of Gambian teens will be allowed to represent their own country in a robotics event.

UPDATE: It seems as if the United States has done something right.

According to The Associated Press, the Gambian high school students whose robotics project is competing in the FIRST Global robotics event will be allowed to travel to America after all.

After being denied visas that would allow students to take part in the Washington, D.C., event, Gambia's Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Mucktarr Darboe said the children were finally sent visa letters. The excited students are scheduled to pick up these letters on Monday.

Unfortunately, only the five students are being allowed to travel. Darboe, who's their mentor, won't be traveling to the U.S. as Gambian government officials are not being given visas yet.

In the absence of Darboe, the students will be meeting with members of the Gambian American Association.

GAA members were originally scheduled to represent the robotics team in the teens' absence, but thankfully, there's no more need for that as the teens are being given the opportunity to showcase their talent on their own.

While this piece of news is truly heartwarming, the team of Afghan students who were also denied visas are still not allowed to travel to the United States, making Afghanistan the only country in the more than 160 being represented in the event whose team members were not granted travel visas.

Just days after Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team was denied U.S. visas, a team of students from the Gambia have also been refused entry into the country.

Five teenagers, aged 17-18, were denied visas which means they will not be able to accompany their inventions which they built for the prestigious FIRST Global robotics event in Washington, D.C.

Moktar Darboe, director of the Gambia's ministry of higher education, research, science and technology, said the team was “very disappointed.”

“We were only told that we did not qualify, and that we could try again. They put in so much effort into building this, and now, after all the sacrifice and energy they put in, they have been left disheartened,” he said.

He further added that the teenagers were denied visas soon after their interview at the embassy in Banjul, Gambia. However, no explanation for the rejection was given.

Darboe also explained that the participants struggled a lot for the visa application as they had to pay $170 each.

“Their parents had to sacrifice a lot to pay this fee,” he said.

Instead of the participants, The Gambian American Association will represent the team at the event and the students will watch the event via Skype in Banjul.

However, the disappointed students have not given up as they want to show the world that “they can do it.”

“We’re not giving up, despite the challenges we face, we still continue to work hard. Next year it will be somewhere else, so I think next year we have hope to get there,” said Fatoumata Ceesay, the Gambia team’s programmer.

She also added they worked under trying conditions and with little guidance over the entire Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

The U.S. embassy in Banjul refused to comment on the incident as it said it did not comment on consular affairs. Kevin Brosnahan, a spokesperson for the state department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said he was unable to discuss individual visa cases.

The event is due to take place in Washington, D.C. on 16-18 July.

Recently, a girl team from Herat, a city located in western Afghanistan, was also denied U.S. visas. The teens risked their lives to be interviewed in Kabul but were unable to get permission to enter U.S. to participate in the international robotics championship.

It is appalling to see how the Trump administration thinks a bunch of students who are good at robots are a threat to America.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters 

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