Explainer: Why the UK is Deporting Thirty-Eight Nigerians

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At least thirty-eight Nigerians will arrive in Lagos today, newly deported from the United Kingdom by the Home Office, the United Kingdom’s government agency that handles many matters including immigration. The deportees include mothers and grandmothers, some of whom have lived in the UK for decades. Last week Wednesday, June 22, the Home Office announced that certain Nigerians and Ghanaians will be deported to their home country. 

According to the Home Office, these Nigerians have entered the United Kingdom illegally, such as by using fake passports. A Home Office spokesperson said

“The UK only ever returns individuals to their country of origin when the Home Office and, where applicable, the courts deem it is safe to do so. All asylum and human rights claims are carefully considered in accordance with our international obligations. Each individual assessment is made against the background of relevant case law and the latest country information. The New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken immigration system and expedite the removal of those with no right to be here.”

Who are the Deportees?

About ten women suffering from severe mental health problems and who are on antipsychotic medication are among those to be deported. One of them is a forty-year-old mother of three British children, who, pregnant, fled Nigeria for the UK in 2009, after she was persecuted for being a Christian in the mostly Muslim area she lived. On arriving in the UK she was arrested for entering with a fake passport and eventually gave birth in prison. Her children were taken from her when her mental health worsened. The woman in question said, “How can the Home Office separate me from my children? I’m not going to let it happen. If they force me to go, I will die. I will kill myself. I escaped Nigeria to save my life.”

The deportees are not all women. Adeniyi Raji, a gay man who fled Nigeria for safety and hopes to get asylum in the UK is among the unlucky number. Raji was on the brink of deportation in 2017 but was eventually allowed to stay in the UK. He, too, said he is afraid of the persecution he will receive in Nigeria for being a homosexual. He showed screenshots of death threats he has received so far. Homosexual activity at present is criminalized by the Nigerian Constitution. Violation of the law incurs a fourteen-year prison sentence, according to the Same-Sex Prohibition Act signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Those Opposing the Deportation

There have been protests against deportation. Protesters, numbering thirty, gathered in solidarity at Derwentside Immigration Centre in County Durham to protest the deportation of some Nigerian women being held there. The exact number of the women could not be confirmed, but reports have put the figure at around thirteen. The protesters claimed the women had been denied proper legal advice, an accusation which the Home Office denied to be true. The protest at Derwentside Immigration Centre was backed by groups like Durham People’s Assembly, Abolish Detention, No To Hassockfield, and Women for Refugee Women (WfRW). Some of the protesters were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway, the Durham Police confirmed. 

British- Nigerian Deportation Collaboration 

As the flight landed in Nigeria, the U.K. announced a “major new agreement” with Nigeria to collaborate on migration issues, following similar arrangements with Ghana and Rwanda. It was announced in a tweet by Home Secretary, Priti Patel. The deal is designed to speed up the transfer of foreign criminals of Nigerian heritage to the country and forms a centerpiece of Patel’s immigration policy.

She also said

‘It is an important development that the UK and Nigeria have signed an agreement to co-operate on migration issues, to tackle illegal migration and the significant threat it poses to both nations.

‘The deal will mean that operational teams in both countries will share their expertise to take the fight to criminal people smugglers who are responsible for a wider range of criminality and put profit before people while undermining the security of our two countries.

‘This landmark agreement will increase the deportation of dangerous foreign criminals to make our streets and country safer.’

 

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