The Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team Finally Gets Its US Visas

Afghanistan Female Robotics Team

Team Afghanistan – FIRST Global

The team had to travel 500 miles to U.S. Embassy in Kabul each time they submitted a visa application for the competition, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement, FIRST global president and former Congressman Joe Sestak said that he is "most grateful to the USA government and its State Department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this worldwide competition this year".

While Afghanistan is not one of the nations the Trump administration lists as a target for a travel ban, it is comprised of a majority of Muslims.

Earlier, The State Department and Department of Homeland Security came up with the idea of "paroling" the girls.

Had the girls been barred entry to the US, they had planned to watch their robot compete over Skype, as it had been allowed to enter the country.

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Officials may have been wary of granting visas to the girls for fear that they would end up staying in the US, as other students and academics on temporary visas have done before.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing Thursday that she could not comment on why the visa applications were denied, adding that that is confidential information under USA law.

The non-profit organising the competition celebrated the reversal in a statement on Wednesday.

According to Politico, critics warned that denying the team entry would engender negative feelings about the U.S.in Afghanistan.

The girls wanted to show the world that Afghans could also construct a hand-made robot.

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First Global, the organization that is hosting the worldwide competition, welcomed the news that the Afghan and Gambian teams would be allowed to participate in it.

Members of Afghan girls' team have said they are eager to put in display the robots made by them in the competition which will begin on Sunday in Washington.

"Afghanistan is a war-torn country where it is hard for women to improve", 15-year-old Lida Azizi told Reuters.

First Global, a not-for-profit charity, holds the annual worldwide robotics challenge in hopes of sparking a passion for science and technology among high school students around the world.

According to the competition's news release, a team from Gambia has also been approved for travel to the USA after its application for visas was initially denied. Now, all 163 teams from 157 countries will be able to participate in the competition in person.

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