This week the news about Belarus’ potential inclusion to the U.S. travel ban list spread like wildfire, causing confusion and skepticism among political observers and ordinary people.
Besides Belarus, the countries under consideration are Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Although the list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, Quartz looked into the matter and tried to explain why Belarus got into it.
Natasha Frost, the author of the text, notes that it’s hard to see why Belarus would feature on this list in the fist place.
“The Eastern European nation has no history of recent terror attacks and has not previously been cited as a US security risk. Unlike in many other countries targeted by Trump, Muslims make up less than 1% of the population.”
Unlike other nationals on the list Belarusians are more law-abiding (just 4% overstay their visa term) and their travel options to the U.S. are already pretty limited.
In 2o18, only about 20,000 Belarusians received visas to travel or move to the U.S. Over 17,000 of them received visas to travel to the country for business or tourism.
The text also recalls that Washington imposed sanctions on Belarus after the 2006 presidential elections, citing human rights violations and undemocratic elections. However, in 2015, they were relaxed.
The list looks even more controversial ad illogical since the countries are currently in the state of a “political thaw. For the first time in a decade, the two countries announced plans to reintroduce ambassadors.
Then John Bolton, the ex-national security advisor, visited Minsk. Now Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is planning to travel to the country next month.
According to Quartz, for most Belarusians, the travel ban would have a minimal impact. Surprisingly, but “the biggest victims would be EU nationals or nationals of other countries who had visited Belarus in the past 10 years.”
The thing is that the travelers whose countries under a U.S. travel ban would not longer have a right for the visa waiver, and would have to apply to the U.S. embassy for a visa. This is a far more expensive and time-consuming process.
“A German who had, for example, visited Belarus for conference six years earlier would now have to apply for a visa from their local US embassy in order to enter the country.”
Alex Kokcharov, a London-based political and economic risk analyst, believes that the ban will affect academics, journalists, and businessmen travelers the most.