Trump urges officials to allow Afghan girls into U.S. for robot contest

Aaron Brown
July 14, 2017

The competition organised by non-profit group First Global will see teams from 164 countries compete in a series of robotic games.

This is a temporary status given to a person who is otherwise ineligible to travel to a country, allowing them entry for an emergency, humanitarian objective or public interest.

The u.s. authorities had initially prohibited the participation in this contest to several pupils or students from countries with a muslim majority, in line with the more stringent policy in terms of visas, adopted by the administration of president Donald Trump.

The Department of Homeland Security eventually agreed to allow the girls in on a system called "parole", which will allow them to remain in the USA for ten days, but is not technically a visa.

It was unclear why the girls were barred entry to the the first place.

As a result, all 163 teams from 157 countries are able to participate in the event being held on July 16 in Washington DC. They twice made a 500 mile trip from their Herat homes to the USA embassy in Kabul to ace their interviews and secure the visas, despite danger and extreme heat.

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After the initial rejection, 14-year-old student Fatema Ghaderyan told AFP that she expected that her team would have to watch the competition on Skype from their hometown of Herat in western Afghanistan. "We applied again for the USA visa and we were rejected again".

"We want to show that Afghan girls can also take part in great development programs", said Kawsar, a member of the team.

Around 160 countries are participating in the competition, with the team from Iran the first to arrive, organizers said.

The girls, all high schoolers, had constructed a ball-sorting robot to enter in the First Global Challenge, an worldwide robotics contest that aims to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math. 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.

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.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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