28.07.2017 Feature Article

Does The Disappearance Of The Burundian Teenagers In The U.S.Vindicate American Policy?

Does The Disappearance Of The Burundian Teenagers In The U.S.Vindicate American Policy?
28.07.2017 LISTEN

When the American Embassy in Ghana recently refused to grant visas to 40 people claiming to be journalists who wanted to travel to the U.S. to cover a soccer event between the Black Stars and their American counterparts, many Ghanaians believed racism played a role in the Embassy's decision. But did it?

Not long after the journalists were rebuffed by the American Embassy, an unrelated incident left no doubt as to why Western embassies, America's included, often seem reluctant to issue visas to Africans who want to travel to their respective countries. Six teenagers from Burundi who were granted visàs to travel to the U.S. to participate in a high-tech exhibition featuring robots suddenly disappeared from their dormitories in Washington, D.C. as the show wrapped up. Two of them were later reportedly sighted crossing the Canadian border. The point worth stressing here is that the Burundian youngsters violated the terms of their visas; they abused the trust and goodwill of the U.S. government.

In light of this dramatic development involving the Burundians as well as similar incidents in the past involving other Africans, is it fair for anyone to blame the U.S. authorities for being too strict on African visa applicants? As they considered the visa applications of the 40 journalists, the American consular officials may have envisioned the scenario later acted out by the Burundians. Race had nothing to do with their decision.

There will certainly be serious repercussions for the disappearing act pulled off by the Burundian teenage group. Otherwise legitimate travellers from Africa seeking U.S. visas will henceforth be vetted more closely than ever before. If visas to the U.S. and, for that matter, other Western destinations such as the U.K. were hard to obtain in the past by Africans, it is going to be even more of a daunting task now.

What makes the hare-brained decision of the Burundian teenagers to abscond so sad is that, while it may succeed in making things a little difficult for many a bonafide would-be African travellers to the U.S., their little gamble is doomed to fail because immigration authorities will eventually round up all six of them and send them back home. And in addition to raising the level of suspicion among visa officials at Western embassies when confronting prospective African travellers, the disappearance of the young Burundians could in future hurt the chances of their own friends and colleagues back home who may also aspire to have the same opportunity that they were privileged to have.

Unfortunately, the teenagers have betrayed the same selfish mentality that is the bane of African societies, a mentality that enables African leaders to prioritize their own personal wellbeing over that of their citizens.

Grinding poverty, wars, and political instability, among other ills in most Third World nations, are factors that all but guarantee that most people who manage to leave these countries will never return. Western countries, which are the favorite destinations for African and other Third World migrants, are acutely aware of this reality, yet throughout the years they tolerated immigration from these troubled parts of the world as long as it was done through legimate channels. But with anti-migrant temperatures steadily rising in the U.S. and across Europe, abusing the goodwill of Western nations as the Burundian students have shamefully done is just all the excuse that might be needed by authorities to tighten the screws on Third World migration even further.

One hopes the six defectors, who have so gratuitously vindicated the hard-line stances of both the American and European anti-immigration politicians and activists, will soon be apprehended and returned home to spend the rest of their lives in the economic backwater that is Burundi. It will serve them right.

Kwadwo Kyei