WASHINGTON, U.S. - The U.S. State Department is said to have hit four countries with visa sanctions after the countries refused to take back deportees.
According to reports, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined new visa restrictions on Eritrea, Cambodia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in a series of diplomatic cables.
The countries faced the State Department’s latest punishment and have reportedly are reportedly among a dozen countries that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had previously deemed “recalcitrant” in the repatriation of criminal aliens.
Tillerson’s orders state that the four countries are “denying or unreasonably delaying” the return of their citizens from the U.S., and visa restrictions will only be lifted if they begin normal acceptance of deportees.
According to one of the cables, Eritrea faces the toughest sanctions of the four countries.
The cable said that in the future, all Eritreans who apply in their own country for most U.S. business or tourist visas will be rejected.
Meanwhile, it said that in Guinea, all government officials and family members will be denied business, tourist, and student visas.
The cables noted that for Sierra Leone, only foreign ministry and immigration officials will be denied tourist and business visas.
Cambodia, on the other hand, faces the lightest sanctions with only foreign Ministry employees at or above the rank of director general and their families will be refused visas
In August, a report in the Washington Times first revealed the possibility of visa sanctions.
However, at the time, DHS officials confirmed that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke had signed letters identifying four countries as deserving of punishment for refusing to cooperate on deportations.
These letters eventually triggered a section of immigration law that requires the State Department to formulate sanctions on offending countries.
Diplomatic relations experts have said that while the immigration code allows U.S. authorities to apply visa sanctions on countries that refuse to take back their citizens, the punishment has rarely been used.
A Reuters report stated that since 2000, the U.S. has resorted to visa sanctions against non-accepting countries just twice — against Guyana in 2001 and the Gambia in 2016.
The incoming Trump administration, however, began placing diplomatic pressure on countries that resist accepting deportees. According to reports, since January, DHS has removed eight countries, including Iraq and Somalia, from a list of 20 that are considered habitual offenders.
Until July, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Cambodia, Burma, Morocco, Hong Kong, South Sudan, Guinea, and Eritrea were still on the list.