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

The six girls from Herat Afghanistan reportedly were blocked from attending the robotics competition- AFP

The teens will be able to take their robot to the FIRST Global Challenge, an worldwide robotics competition in Washington this month.

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 goal or public interest.

The six teenage girls from Afghanistan's robotics team arrived in Kabul on Thursday afternoon to collect their visas for the U.S and said they were very grateful to everyone who had worked to get the original decision overturned.

"After going through the visa process twice, the U.S. State Department subsequently granted the team entry to the United States", FIRST Global, the organization behind the robotics competition, said in a statement.

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". It took them six months to prepare, often working seven days a week, as they constructed a robot that sorts balls, has the ability to recognise orange and blue colours, and can move objects to put them in their correct places.

The girls wrote on their competition page: "We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great".

The girls traveled from their homes in Herat, making the 800-kilometre (500-mile) journey to the USA embassy in Kabul twice because their applications were denied the first time.

A limited version of Trump's travel ban - temporarily barring refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - recently took effect, after the US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced pending a full hearing in October. Members of the team from The Gambia were also granted visas after initially being denied.

While many critics believed anti-Muslim sentiments buoyed by Trump policies were to blame, the exact reasons for the team being denied are unclear.

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.

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