United States suspends issuing visa to Sierra Leoneans

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 September 2020:

The United States of America has stopped issuing visas to Sierra Leonean nationals, after the government of Sierra Leone reneged on an agreement to allow Sierra Leoneans deported by the USA to return to Sierra Leone.

The governments of the USA and Sierra Leone in 2017 entered into a repatriation agreement, whereby the government of Sierra Leone will issue travel documents to Sierra Leonean nationals that have been declared ‘persona non grata’ by the US government to return to Sierra Leone.

It is not clear whether the US government has made cash payment to the government of Sierra Leone in return for receiving and rehabilitating or resettling those deported to Sierra Leone by the US government, as such matters are usually not made public.

What is clear is that the US government usually charters flights that take deportees back to Sierra Leone, accompanied by armed US marshals.

But this arrangement came under immense strain a few months ago, when two deportees arriving in Sierra Leone claimed they were forced to go to Sierra Leone despite protesting to the US government that they are not Sierra Leonean nationals but Caribbeans.

The US government denied responsibility for that fiasco, instead blaming the government of Sierra Leone whose responsibility the US government says it is to check the nationality of all deportees before issuing them with travel documents to Sierra Leone.

The argument between the two governments over the repatriation of Sierra Leoneans from the USA ,and the government of Sierra Leone’s role in facilitating the process, came to a head a few weeks ago when the government of Sierra Leone stopped issuing travel documents to deportees.

In response, the US government slapped a ban on Sierra Leoneans travelling to the USA with a Sierra Leonean passport, bringing to a complete and devastating halt the possibility of Sierra Leoneans being able to obtain US visas.

But some policy analysts believe that this sudden decision by the US government may not be unconnected to the private visit to Hezbollah controlled Lebanon four weeks ago by the president of Sierra Leone – Julius Maada Bio, where it is alleged he met, dined and discussed investment opportunities with some of the most powerful and rich Lebanese  tycoons, whom the US government frown upon as ‘unsavoury characters’ – involved in arms dealing and international money laundering.

The US Ambassador to Sierra Leone – Maria Brewer, was speaking on local radio 98.1 FM yesterday about the US government’s decision to suspend issuing visas to Sierra Leoneans. This is what she said:

Mustapha Wai – brother of Sierra Leone Ambassador to the USA – Sidiqi Wai, has also been speaking about the Sierra Leone – USA visa saga. This is what he said:

So, what is the government of Sierra Leone’s position on this issue? Early this week, the Sierra Leone minister of foreign affairs issued this statement:

18 Comments

  1. How far has the Government gone with this sanction? It is close to four months, and I guess the Government knows that a lot of people’s lives depend on this. The Government should take a quick action towards this issue. Thank You

  2. Madam Gloria, it could be much accountable if you have stated your full name, then I would have known you are someone of a FAIR and BALANCED mind. You must have misread or misunderstood my post. For that I forgive you. I started my post by feeling sorry for my people of Sierra Leone that they are the scape goats caught up between the spate of both countries. So for you to say the least of otherwise is wrong. Secondly, you cannot accuse the president of selling Sierra Leone passports to criminals or anyone NOT A SIERRA LEONEAN, without evidence. Whenever I ACCUSE ANY ONE OF ANY WRONG DOING,LET ALONE CRIMES, be rest assured that there are EVIDENCE AND FACTS to boost up my accusations, because I FEAR GOD. I hope next time you can state your full and legal NAME and be able to OWN UP to YOUR POST RESPONSIBLY. Thank you Madam Gloria. I hope to continue a constructive, respectful and truthful chat.

  3. Many thanks to the government of Sierra Leone through their ministry of Foreign Affairs for her excellent and timely response to the United States of America Visa Sanction on her country. We hope they do all they can to negotiate with the US Government to lift this sanction in the soonest possible time and try to put strong measures in place of their passport issuance system.

  4. I know some of my fellow Sierra Leoneans might be tempted to say how come no one is talking about French president Macron visited Lebanon as well. Here I am not trying to compare apples to apples. More like day and night. They might have visited the same country, but their mission were different. If we really want to know the difference between this two presidential visits, you have to look at the context of their visits. Our president might have gone there for his second honeymoon or medical reasons as they want us to believe, but president Macron of France, went there after the tragic blast to offer expert help and support in rescuing the dead and injured. Also to see how he can help to galvanised international support for the poor suffering people of Lebanon, never mind their corrupt politicians.

    More importantly, France being the former colonial power, wanted to put pressure on the various political factions that rule or just like our country, misrule Lebanon, to come up with a road map to form a technocratic government, that the international community can trust and work with again. Lebanese politicians are so corrupt even the IMF has given up on them. Macron went there with the hope that the corrupt Lebanese politicians have finally learnt a lesson from the disasters in the container terminal. To be honest president Bio won’t look out of place amongst this corrupt elite. BIRDS OF THE SAME FEATHERS FLOCK TOGETHER. So no surprises there to see our president visit a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the Middle East.

    Macron, wasn’t mincing his words when he spoke to the political classes and the ordinary people of Lebanon, that unless they tackle the cancer of corruption, the international community will not come to their aid. That the help France is going to offer will be disbursed through known French organisations helping the ordinary Lebanese family. That way he is satisfied the aid money is going directly to the people that need it most. I have to pinch myself, because Listening to Macron’s speech, it is hard to think he is talking about Lebanon and Sierra Leone in the same breath.

  5. This policy started in 2017 when the then US Secretary of State Mr. Rex Tillerson through the State Department stopped issuing certain travelling visas to citizens of Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cambodia for refusing to take back citizens that should be deported. But I personally believe that the two foreigners who were deported to Sierra Leone but are now claiming to be non Sierra Leoneans have altered the process in our Washington DC Embassy. In less than 40 days, the USA will have an election and the main manifesto promise of this administration was to clampdown on illegal immigrants and now it is a hot topic in the campaign and unfortunately Sierra Leone is a casualty.

    I also hope that the Newly Energized President Bio after his successful vacation from Lebanon, also used the opportunity to discuss security issues with our Sierra Leone Consular in Beirut Mr. Hashim Hashim, because since he has declared the destructive APC party a terrorist organization, he needs to make sure that the disgruntled “Lebanese Adebayor” who lives in London will not connect the lifetime leader of the APC to the any terrorist organization in the Middle East for the destruction of our country. I am also excited to hear that our gallant President has negotiated with some organizations for the repatriation of 130 Sierra Leoneans who are currently stranded in Lebanon.

    May the Almighty continue to bless our Foreign Minister and Ambassador in Washington DC for their negotiating skills with the USA government and hopefully things will be normalized. But the good news about this temporary visa suspension is that since the Government White Paper has been released, most of the APC AYAMPIES won’t escape to the USA.

  6. The issue of repatriation is somewhat murky. The Americans are insisting that the would be deportees are Sierra Leoneans because they are carrying Sierra Leone passports while Freetown is denying their citizenship status. How did these people obtain our passports? Who are they really? Has the Sierra Leone consulate in Washington interviewed them to ascertain their true nationality? What were the terms of the agreement which Maada Bio signed with Washington for the repatriation of these people? If President Bio did sign an agreement with the Americans, where was his head on that day? One fact cannot be disputed: Our passports were sold to people trying to get to the United States and other countries in the West by such people as Abass Bundu who is now the Speaker of Parliament. Bio too was implicated in such a deal at some point. Now Bio, whose vocal chords seem to be impaired when they are most needed, must come clean with the people of Sierra Leone. It could well be a case of Washington trying to bully Freetown. We need to know.

    If indeed the would-be deportees came upon our passports through criminal means emanating from the selling of them by Sierra Leoneans, the government should accept them and then deport them to their authentic countries. We are too weak and poor to challenge the Americans. President Bio only needs to cut down on his travels using private jets to amass enough funds to finance the venture. High level official corruption is catching up with the country.

    If Washington’s move is connected to Bio’s visit to Lebanon they are just pursuing their foreign policy stance. Maada should have known better. Again one wonders what all the PhD holders in the government are thinking or if they have the ability to think at all. The Lebanese group, Hezbollah is viewed as a terrorist group by the Americans and they are allied to Iran which is not on friendly terms with Washington. In the midst of this, Hezbollah are on war footing with Israel, the most important ally of the Americans in the Middle East. The sooner the Bio Government gets to understand that foreign policy is conducted on interests, pragmatism and expediency, the sooner they will position the country to benefit from what is out there.

  7. All this is because of our passports were sold to foreigners. I think Mustafa Wai is right – we should investigate before we blame our president. Long live mama Sierra Leone.

  8. No problem. Majority of Sierra Leoneans are not affected so it is insignificant. Those affected are the rich and a few casualties of circumstances. After all Lebanon is the new norm. I assume visa free.

  9. What’s actually wrong about Bio’s visit to Lebanon? Nothing folks. The US gov’t has diplomatic relationship with Lebanon. Two months ago when they had that explosion tragedy, the United States Gov’t provided millions of dollars in aid to the country. Who opposed that folks? First of all, let’s abandon hate, this is our major problem in Sierra Leone. Sometimes we have to do research before we jump in to response. No matter what, this man is your President. He did nothing wrong. He met with the country’s big business people, as US always meet with investors. This is what a leader should do. One thing I believe also, the deportees that were deported to Sierra Leone, what happen to them? Were they properly interrogated? How did they obtain Sierra Leone passport?

    My dear sister Mariama Jabbie, thank you so much for defending our country and it’s leader. H.E. was there for the benefit of the country. Is anything wrong with that? Let’s take an example: US has no diplomatic relationship with Tehran, but Great Britain does. Is there any problem between USA and Britain because of that? No! I don’t care how much someone styles this, the United states is not against our president visit to Lebanon period. Other presidents visit Lebanon with no problem, why should Sierra Leone be an exception? I am totally afraid for my country’s stability. May God protect our beloved country.

  10. Indeed greed and poverty can acquaint a man with strange bedfellows; I have always maintained that the sense of judgement of SLPP leaders and their supporters totally stinks. I mean seriously who doesn’t know that Hezbollah that is based in Lebanon is considered a terrorist group in 21 countries, as well as in the Arab League, and European Union? Disagree if you want, but the truth of the matter is that Lebanon is under the control of Hezbollah that is considered the most powerful non-state actor in the world, and compared to them the Lebanese army are looked upon as dewy-eyed boy scouts. But that didn’t serve as a warning, neither did it prevent this greedy huge feeding President, living in denial from dismissing all the red flags and embarking on a suspicious visit audaciously in full view of the entire planet Earth.

    He went and returned not saying a word. How can someone, anyone trust such a shady old soldier? The Americans are having none of the childish games this President wants to play, they are fully aware of what is going on behind the scenes – no one on the beautiful earth can escape the penetrating gaze of the ferocious America Eagle. This President needs to learn how to think sensibly, and critically for himself instead on leaning on human crutches – David Francis and JJ Saffa. Its a sad thing, ineptitude really is; and SLPP leaders are not just amateurs and blunderers, but obstructive good for nothings – armies of wild locusts they aptly resemble always destroying abundant harvests their incompetent hands have not sown.(lol)

    • Hatred considered as a catastrophic chronic cancer, and it is an invisible disease that doctors would never recover or see. Every human with 5 senses will never support terrorism, as God Himself never authorizes any human to take a life that you were unable to create period.
      This is another hate that is coming with hypo; did the President meet with Hezbollah leaders? He met with the Lebanon big business leaders, folks. The Arab world consists of 22 states, Lebanon is one of them. I do not know why APC supporters are playing dirty politics. There were too many complaints; people saying “where is our President we don’t know his whereabouts. Oh my fellow Sierra Leoneans, let’s love our country Sierra Leone and believe it or not, Bio will not and will never serve more than two terms himself, so why worry?

      The President also rescued our suffering sisters from Lebanon – can we credit him for that?. Some of us even accused him of honeymoon vacation with the first lady, with no regard or respect. Of all the country’s fund that the APC party stole and saved for their families, paying mortgages for them, yet APC hates to be named opposition. I believe some family members are struggling abroad right now because, APC is no longer in power. May God protect our country Sierra Leone.

  11. I do not see anything wrong in fulfilling an official obligation if there was NO NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AT STAKE. Like you said those arrangements must have been made long before the explosion took place. But wait a minute, what is wrong in visiting your friends when they have a mishap like the explosion and deaths in Lebanon. Is that not all what life is about. A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND INDEED. If he has cancelled what would they have said or call him? My only caution to him again, is for him to be careful those he meet with or have any form of transactions with, so SIERRA LEONE cannot be falsely labelled as a sympathizer of people that do bad stuff.

    The country has had her own pains and sufferings and still going through. The people do not need anymore “wuhala. You are right, he has to be careful with those he chooses as advisers, and definitely some one like Brooks here in AMERICA IS AN AWFUL ADVISER.

  12. In as much as both parties seem to be using the Poor people of Sierra Leone as “pawns”, I want to say that Sierra Leone and Lebanon have long been partners from the time some of us were little girls going to school in Sierra Leone, and long before I ever finished college and migrated to the US and becoming a US Citizen. I want to believe that the President of Sierra Leone will not be reckless or careless enough to engage with any one that disturbs the peace in the World let alone any group that is deem to do that. That said, I do not think the US can CONTROL who the Sierra Leone government chooses to have political or financial transactions with, as they are a self governing republic.

    One thing I can caution President Bio of though, is that America is always a strong partner, and should not allow anyone to undermine that collegiality and partnership. The current political atmosphere in the US should be one that President Bio should devoid himself from, and stay neutral especially when it comes to Brooks. This man has divided families, communities, and has helped to divide this great country, and it looks as if that is what he is doing in the rest of the world. América is strong enough to survive it, Sierra Leone is still a growing economy which will not be strong enough to withstand the evils of this man’s intentions.

    Sending criminals from other parts of the world to Sierra Leone will not only be bad for the government but will be bad for the people. It is not something that is good. I personally do not believe in sending people of high crimes back to their countries especially VIOLENT CRIMINALS. It is NOT good for the receiving country. I think deportees of immigration are fair game. I pray and hope that the people of Sierra Leone will not be a scape goat in this spate. WE ALL NEED ONE ANOTHER.YOU MIGHT THINK YOU ARE STRONG AND DO NOT NEED ME, BUT MY PRAYERS HELPED YOU.

    • Just listen to yourself madam Jabbie your first and second expression of words have gone a long way. I don’t see any reason why any government in Africa should be friends with Lebanon right now. I pity you as a Sierra Leonean. We don’t need another 2nd war in Sierra Leone. By the way has it ever occurred to you the president of Sierra Leone who was interviewed in the world media said they sold Sierra Leone passports to other countries? Do you call that good leadership? Being a president of a country does not give you the right to sell the country’s passports to foreigners.

      It means he had sold Sierra Leone citizens birth right. Now this suspension of visas to Sierra Leoneans has come back to hunt Sierra Leoneans. It won’t affect you because you are an American citizen now but what about our poor people wanting to go out of Sierra Leone for a better life. As it is now, can you be proud of Sierra Leone after 60 years of independence? But God will decide our case for Sierra Leone.

  13. The idea of visiting Lebanon by president Bio was not only a mistake but a complete lack of judgement by the president, and his advisers. The timing was wrong and the venue was out of kilter. I mean how could you when the country was going through its worst economic crisis, and to top it up the explosion at the container terminal that left many people dead and countless others that suffered life long changing injuries.

    Yes these state visits are put in place well in advanced, I don’t think the Lebanese authorities would have taken any offence if president Bio and his entourage had called it off, given the magnitude of the crisis facing the host country. But the president displaying his heartless behaviour to bereaved families like Makeni, Pademba road prison deaths and now to the Lebanese families that lost their loved ones in this tragic avoidable accident, has displayed once again his lack of sensitivity.

    He should seriously start thinking of getting rid of some of his so called advisers. If only the Lebanese officials were not as corrupt like Bio’s government, they would have politely say to him, thanks Mr president but your timing was wrong. The idea that our American friends are upset with Bio’s government is not far fetched. I stand to be corrected on this one. I recall an incident in Freetown, when the PLO leader Yasir Arafat paid a courtesy visit to our country in the 80s, the Americans demonstrated their displeasure by throwing our worthless Leones outside their old embassy windows at Walpole Street just by our famous cotton tree. Now if you add the recent reports of trying to drag the American Ambassador Maria Brewer onto the ongoing trial of Dr Blyden, it makes the perfect storm with our American counterparts. Mr president think before you act. May God bless Sierra Leone.

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