Robotics Team Arrives In Kabul To Get Last-Minute US Visas

Teenagers from the Afghanistan Robotic House, a private training institute, practice in Herat, Afghanistan.

A team of Afghan girls were initially refused visas to participate in a science contest in the US under Trump policies, but the decision was reversed to allow a team from Afghanistan.

The teenagers were denied access to the US under the president's executive order on travel after making multiple trips to their country's capital depsite the dangers of the war-torn region.

Politico reported that the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, at President Donald Trump's urging, changed course following an outcry of criticism. However, the move sparked an global outcry and only after U.S President Donald Trump reportedly stepped in on Wednesday night (Kabul time) was the initial decision overturned and visas were ordered to be issued.

Officials say the administration could not be prouder of these young female scientists.

While their robot was sent overseas to compete and arrangements were made for them to video-conference in to the event, the team of girls from Western Afghanistan were rejected twice for the necessary visas to attend in-person.

FIRST Global president, former U.S. Navy Admiral and Congressman Joe Sestak said in a statement that he was pleased that the team will be allowed to participate.

U.S. authorities originally denied access to schoolchildren from several Muslim-majority nations who wanted to participate in the science competition, following the implementation of stricter visa policies under Trump.

The U.S. State Department had declined to comment on why the Afghan team's visa applications were denied, saying that "all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law".

The six girls on the team will travel to the U.S. for next week's FIRST Global Challenge, an worldwide robotics competition in Washington that will be attended by teams from more than 150 countries.

The girls will not be granted visas, but instead "parole", allowing them to stay in the USA for 10 days ― a reversal that occurred after President Donald Trump intervened in the matter, Politico reported.

Parole is a temporary status in which a person who is otherwise ineligible to enter the country is allowed in temporarily because of an emergency or humanitarian objective.

The girls, had constructed a ball-sorting robot to enter in the First Global Challenge, an worldwide robotics contest that aims to promote interest in science and technology. Sestak said the State Department was a "star player" in the entire process of coordinating travel for the competing teams, but he had no direct knowledge of Trump's involvement.


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