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Coronavirus | India talking to U.S. over visa sanctions

The government is “engaged” in talks with the U.S. administration to reconsider President Donald Trump’s orders to impose visa sanctions on countries that don’t take back illegal “aliens” in the U.S. within a week. In particular, the order clashed with New Delhi’s decision to restrict all passengers, including Indian citizens from any other country, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

If Washington refuses to relent on its seven-day deadline, or New Delhi refuses to lift the ban on incoming travel within the week, Indians could face a major cut in U.S. visas granted this year.

Coronavirus | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“We have been engaged with the U.S. government on resuming these deportation-related travels at the earliest opportunity,” government sources told The Hindu, when asked about the logjam over the U.S. President’s memorandum.

“Like all incoming international travel, the deportation of illegal immigrants to India has also been affected by the lockdown and COVID-19-related travel restrictions,” the sources explained, adding that India had been cooperating with the U.S. to repatriate illegal Indian nationals from the U.S. as it is the government’s policy “not to encourage illegal immigration to any country”.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2018 survey, Indians constitute one of the largest groups of illegal aliens in the U.S., numbering an estimated 4,70,000 who had entered by 2015.

However, the Trump administration has pushed for India to tighten its controls on emigration, and accept more deportations in the past few years. In October and November 2019, India brought back 150 citizens who had entered the U.S. illegally, and accepted 311 others deported by Mexico who were trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

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Officials said the pandemic had created a unique situation, making it difficult for India to accept any passengers currently abroad, for fear that they might carry the virus into the country. At present, the Ministry of External Affairs estimates that there are about 25,000 Indians stranded in different parts of the world who roughly fall into three categories: business travellers, tourists and students whose colleges and schools have been shut down owing to the pandemic. Despite several pleas from the stranded Indians as well as requests from the countries they are in, the government has refused to reconsider the travel ban.

Coronavirus | Thousands of Indians stranded overseas are disheartened as govt. refuses to lift passenger ban

However, the U.S. President has also used the COVID-19 situation to justify cracking down on countries that “deny or delay” the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, “if such denial or delay is impeding operations of the Department of Homeland Security necessary to respond to the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.” The Presidential Memorandum, issued on April 10, does include a clause permitting the Secretary of State to make exceptions consistent “with the foreign policy interests of the United States”, a clause New Delhi hopes will be used to tide over the situation.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 11:19:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-india-talking-to-us-over-visa-sanctions/article31325707.ece

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