Afghan girls denied US visa to present robot at international competition

Gambian students denied US visa to present robot at international competition

The team won't be able to travel to the competition (Stock image)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A team of female students from Afghanistan have been denied access to the US for a key robotics competition - even though their robot has been allowed in.

The group of six girls from Herat have built a ball-sorting machine for the First Global tournament in Washington DC.

But they must now watch the event remotely, having been denied entry for reasons which have not been clarified.

Afghanistan is not on Donald Trump's travel ban list, and the girls - who were due to compete under the name Team Afghanistan - say they are mystified by the decision.

“We still don’t know the reason why we were not granted visas, because other countries participating in the competition have been given visas,” team member Fatemah Qaderyan told Reuters.

“No one knows about the future but … we did our best and we hope that our robot could get a position along other robots from other countries,” 

Students from The Gambia have also been denied visas for the tournament, which takes place in Washington between July 16 and 18..

The director of The Gambia's ministry of higher education, research, science and technology said: "They put in so much effort into building this, and now, after all the sacrifice and energy they put in, they have been left disheartened."

The students were also not told why their visas were denied, but had continued to build the robot anyway and hoped the decision may change.

Moktar Darboe, the team's mentor, said that the robot will be sent to the US in the next few days. He also added that the team sometimes had difficulty in building the robot as customs officials kept parts for a long time.

However, US Ambassador C Patricia Alsup did visit the students last month and a student spokesperson for the team said: "She gave us hope not to give up, and she said they would give us all their support to help us go further."

First Global Challenge claims roughly 158 countries are to be represented at the event and this includes 40 African countries.