- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

Five high school students that represent the Gambian team in the inaugural “robot Olympics” have been granted travel visas to the U.S. after a second interview with State Department officials.

After initially being denied visas, the students can now travel to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. July 16-18 to operate the robot they have spent months creating and perfecting. Over 160 international squads are participating, but the teams from Gambia and Afghanistan encountered trouble obtaining travel visas.

Gambian team coach Mucktarr Darboe said he was still blocked because the U.S. is not currently granting visas to Gambian government officials, the Associated Press reported.

Before the granted request, the Gambia and Afghanistan teams were the only two countries participating in the competition that were denied travel visas. Both teams arranged for their robot to be mailed to the Olympics and have the staff from event sponsor First Global assemble teams of Gambian-Americans and Afghani-Americans to represent the teams.

According to 2016 State Department statistics, 65 of the 164 countries competing in the International Robot Olympics had 40 percent or greater visa refusal rates with their respective U.S. Embassies.

As of now, 99 percent of countries that applied have been granted travel visas, including countries targeted in President Trump’s recently upheld travel ban such as Sudan and Iran.

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