Home Expatriates Belgian Athletes of Moroccan Descent Refused Entry into the United States

Belgian Athletes of Moroccan Descent Refused Entry into the United States

Belgian Athletes of Moroccan Descent Refused Entry into the United States

By Alexander Jusdanis

Rabat – Belgian taekwondo practitioners Mourad Laachraoui and Si Mohamed Ketbi and their coach Abdelkhalak Mkadmi were refused entrance to the United States on Wednesday, preventing the young Olympic athletes from participating in the 2017 Taekwondo US Open in Las Vegas.

As they attempted to board their flight at the Brussels airport, the three Belgian athletes of Moroccan descent were told that they would not be allowed to enter the plane as their Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) permits had been denied, despite having been approved for ESTA in January. ESTA allows citizens of 38 countries, including Belgium, to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa.

Two hours before take-off, the Association Belge Francophone de Taekwondo (ABFT), which had applied for the athletes’ ESTA on their behalf, received an email saying the permits had been denied without explanation. Laachraoui, Ketbi, and Mkadmi themselves were not notified until they tried to board.

Both Laachraoui and Ketbi represented Belgium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Laachraoui is the brother of Najim Laachraoui, one of two suicide bombers responsible for the Brussels airport bombings in 2016.

Having lost around 5000 euros on cancelled flights and accommodations, the ABFT decided to withdraw the participation of the two athletes. In a statement, the Federation expressed their disappointment, saying that “the decision has a direct impact on the Belgian representatives of our sport.”

The last-minute cancellation of the Belgian taekwondo fighters’ travel permits comes following US president Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries and to refuse the entry of all refugees until further notice.
SHARE
Previous articleCooperation with Morocco ‘Fundamental’ in Fighting Terrorism: Spanish Minister
Next articleMorocco’s Return to African Union Widely Reported by International Media