DAKAR, Senegal — The United States has denied visas to five teenage students from Gambia competing in a prestigious international robotics contest in Washington, the team’s leader said Tuesday.
The teens found the rejection “very disheartening,” said Mucktarr M.Y. Darboe, who is also a director in the largely Muslim West African nation’s ministry of higher education.
Darboe said the students were not given a reason for the visa denials in April, and he called the decision “disappointing and unfair.”
The Gambia team is not alone. An all-female team from Afghanistan also was denied visas.
The U.S. Embassy in Banjul could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tiny Gambia has been through dramatic change in recent months, ousting via elections a longtime dictator, Yahya Jammeh, whose administration was accused of human rights abuses. The new administration, inaugurated in January, has promised widespread democratic reforms.