Three African countries could face US sanctions for refusing to accept deportees

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Protesters rally outside the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Michigan, US, June 21, 2017.

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the United States could impose sanctions on three African countries that do not co-operate with requests to take back their deported citizens, reports suggested.

DHS spokesman David Lapan declined to discuss possible sanctions or the names of the countries that could face the sanctions for denying visas to their deportees, CNN on Wednesday cited a DHS official close to discussions as saying there are four countries under consideration.

These are Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

"The United States could impose additional penalties on these countries for refusing to co-operate with requests to take back their citizens," Lapan said Wednesday.

READ: US court halts deportations of Iraqi nationals 

The State Department and the DHS can sanction countries that do not co-operate with removals but has only used that punishment authority twice in the past 15 years.

Currently, 12 countries are deemed recalcitrant namely China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Cambodia, Myanmar, Morocco, Hong Kong, South Sudan, Guinea and Eritrea.

Reports claim that acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke sent a letter to the State Department last week identifying the latest four countries that could face the new penalties.

In two cases since 2000, the United States halted issuing visas to government officials and their families to Guinea and Gambia.

READ: How Trump's travel ban affects African businesses in US 

Lapan said in some cases the DHS has no choice but to release some convicted criminals who served prison time but could not be returned to their home country because their home country refuses to co-operate.

"We have tens of thousands of individuals," Lapan said. The DHS identifies countries that can be sanctioned and the State Department decides what, if any, sanctions could be imposed.