WASHINGTON — The United States imposed visa restrictions on Ghanaian nationals Thursday, making it more difficult for citizens of the West African country to visit the U.S.
In levying the sanctions, the Trump administration accused Ghana of not repatriating nationals who had been deported.
“Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in a press release.
The United States periodically restricts visas when countries fail to allow its citizens, when removed from the U.S., to be repatriated.
In July, the Department of Homeland Security imposed visa restrictions on Burma and Laos, after those countries failed to accept removed nationals. Those restrictions affected B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas, for visitors seeking to enter the United States as tourists or on business trips.
The DHS did not specify what visa classes would be affected by the latest sanctions.
With fewer than 30 million people, Ghana doesn’t crack the list of Africa’s 10 most-populous nations. But in both 2017 and 2018, it ranked behind only Nigeria in nationals removed from the United States, according to a report from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In 2017, 305 Ghanians were removed; in 2018, the number dipped to 243. Nigeria, meanwhile, jumped from 312 removals in 2017 to 369 in 2018, despite having a population seven times larger than Ghana’s.
But both African nations fell far short of Mexico, which had 141,045 people removed in 2018, a 10 percent increase from the year before.
Removals include people ordered to be deported after entering the United States and those denied entry at the border.
Ghana isn’t the first African nation to face visa restrictions. In August 2017, the United States placed visa restrictions on Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The U.S. typically imposes visa restrictions after other efforts to enforce compliance with deportations fail.
“We hope the Ghanaian government will work with us to reconcile these deficiencies quickly,” Nielsen said.
According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center in 2017, about 155,000 Ghanaian-born people live in the United States, making them the fourth-largest group of Africans in the country.
Ghana was also the first stop on first lady Melania Trump’s visit to Africa in October.
She spent several days in the country and visited the Cape Coast Castle, a former slave-holding facility.