BY INNOCENT DURU
The Nation Newspaper’s intervention saved three female migrants and two of their children deported from Germany on Monday from another round of frustration. The distraught deportees were stranded at the Murtala Mohammed Airport and hopeless about what next to do with their lives but a light appeared at the end of the tunnel for them. INNOCENT DURU, who has been following the secret and inhuman conditions under which Nigerian migrants are deported by Germany, reports how this newspaper ended the miseries of the embattled deportees.
“I am frustrated. If I leave here now, I don’t even know where I am going to because when I was in Germany, my husband’s relations I left two children with, if they needed ordinary N500, they would call me. Is that the kind of people I would go and stay with?
“My grandmother is over 100 years old; my father is also going to 90 years. I don’t have a family to stay with. That is the problem I have and that is why I am crying. I don’t have any hope right now. It is someone who has money that has hope.”
That was the lamentation of Stella, one of the fresh set of Nigerian migrants deported by Germany.She wore a depressing look with her eyes red and swollen as a result of bemoaning the fate that befell her and the uncertainty of what awaits her here in Nigeria.
Her buxom daughter, who had planned to celebrate her birthday with her German school mates on Wednesday, continuously looked round in bewilderment as she tried to figure out the strange environment she had found herself.
The deportees were dealt the first blow at the airport when officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service only took their data, bundled them into a bus and dumped them outside the airport without caring about their welfare and if they had money to go home or even means of reaching out to their relations.
“When we arrived Murtala Mohammed Airport, Nigerian Immigration officers welcomed us. They wrote our names and where we came from and that was all. They didn’t give us a dime to go to our houses and neither gave us food nor water,” Stella said in tears.
Her allegations were corroborated by another deportee, who identified herself simply as Nelta. She said: “When we got to the airport, the Nigeria Immigration Service officials called Number 9 (my number on the list) and asked for my name. I told them Nelta.
“They asked me to walk straight to a box and asked me to fill a form. After filling the form, they asked us to enter into a waiting bus and dropped us outside the airport without giving us any assistance. No other government officials came to counsel or say anything to us. We were just thrown out like bath water. I don’t know where I am going from here.”
Activists rally round deportees
Prior to the arrival of the deportees, a Germany based activist, Rex Osa, had alerted our correspondent about the exercise. Besides, knowing the attitude of the Nigerian system to deportees, Rex, who is the co-ordination activist for Network 4Refugees, a political platform for refugees/migrant self-organisation based in Stuttgart, Germany, had made arrangements with a Nigerian partner and Executive Director of Super Mum Charity Initiative, Tolu Ayotade, to provide accommodation and necessary assistance for as many deportees that would be stranded.
Of all the deportees, it was only three who gave attention to Tolu. They were subsequently accommodated at a hotel in Ajao Estate, Aiport Road to calm their frayed nerves.
With support from our correspondent and an ally of Rex, the deportees were provided with food , water and drink.
Where next after the night accommodation?Overwhelmed by the heart-rending lamentations of the deportees about how they would cope after leaving the hotel, our correspondent reached out to the Nigerian Immigration Service Public Relations Officer at the Murtala Mohammed Airport to know if they were aware of the deportation and what help they would render to such people. He picked the calls and ended it when he was informed about the purpose.
He subsequently sent a message saying that he was in a meeting and would call back. The service had earlier denied previous deportations.
The Nation thereafter called the national spokesmen of the service, Sunday James, who said he wasn’t aware of the deportation. When our correspondent pushed further, he demanded to have the pictures of the deportees to confirm that the matter was true.
With the permission of the deportees, their pictures where taken and forwarded to the NIS national image maker.
He thereafter demanded to know the number of the deportees, the country they came from, when they came and the time they arrived. Our correspondent provided all that.
After receiving the message, James promised to relay it to the comptroller for necessary actions but that was the last that was heard from the service.
The Murtala Mohammed spokesman of the service, Edet, later called back at 9pm to confirm the deportation. “Twenty-six people were deported from Germany today,” he said. Asked to provide further details of the demography of the deportees, he promised to check with his officers and call back to provide the answer but he never did.
Seeing the heightening tension on the faces of the deportees, The Nation reached out to the Director, Refugee and Migrants at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs, in Abuja, Hamidu Lawal. Lawal immediately got in touch with the head of the Lagos office, Margaret, who requested that the deportees should be brought to their office the following day.
End comes for deportees’ plight
The next day, Tuesday to be precise, our correspondent early in the morning returned to the hotel. The deportees’ countenance had improved compared to what it was when they arrived. Tolu, the Supermum Charity Initiative boss who was supposed to be part of the journey, had had her sickness compounded by the stress she passed through running around to assist the deportees the previous day. She was taken to the hospital after vomiting and collapsing.
Seriously concerned about the plight of the deportees, Margret, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs boss in Lagos gave directions on how to get to the office and the officer to meet as she was out on official assignment.
Getting to the office in a chattered taxi, our correspondent met with the Head Migration Unit , South West Zone, Alexander Oturu, who allayed the fears of the deportees and assured them that they would be counselled, accommodated in the commission’s shelter, fed, provided their basic needs and trained in any vocation of their choice. Elated by the humanitarian gesture of our correspondent, the commission assured that it will settle all expenses incurred in the course of assisting the deportees.
The deportees heaved a sigh of relief at the development. The misery on their faces faded away as they watched their children gamboling around the office.
Deportees relive ordeal with German authorities
Narrating how she was deported, Stella said: “I was coming back from church on Sunday when a neighbour called to tell me that policemen numbering about 30 came to my house. I asked her why they were looking for me because I didn’t offend them.
“The neighbour just told me they were looking for me. As I was about taking a train to Munich, I saw a bus coming and I told my daughter that, that should be the police. They pulled up by my side and asked to confirm if I am the one.
“Thereafter, they asked for my advice(a document) . I gave it to them and immediately, they said I was going to Frankfurt. They first of all took me to my house and asked me to park my things.
“I told them that before I would park my things, I would have to call my husband to ask him to come and take my daughter but they refused. They collected my phones and didn’t give them back to me until we arrived at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos.”
Without considering her status as a married woman, she further explained how the German officials allegedly rough-handled her. “As we were engaging in the discussion, they handcuffed me and took me to Frankfurt with my daughter. We only came back with a hand bag and the clothes we were putting on. A whole me , coming back to Nigeria without a dime in my pocket.
“They handcuffed me from Germany till we got to Lagos. Aside from the handcuff, they used belt to tie my stomach and hand. It was when we wanted to come down from the plane that they released me. My daughter cried all the way from Frankfurt to Lagos seeing me in chains.
“My concern is about my daughter. I took her out of this country when she was just four months old. What would she be doing here? She speaks German and how long will it take her to learn Yoruba or adapt to the situation in Nigerian school? It could take her as much as two to three years before she would adjust. I am confused and tired. I don’t even know what to do.”
The daughter, in an emotion-laden voice, condemned the treatment meted out to her mother. “They put handcuff on my mummy. I don’t know why they did that. I felt bad and cried all through the journey.
“The German officials gave me chips, bread and chocolate. In spite of that, I didn’t feel happy seeing mummy in that condition. I still want to go back to Germany but I don’t want my mummy handcuffed again.”
The deportation was still like a dream to Nelta, who intermittently asked rhetorically if it was true that she is in Nigeria. “Are we in Lagos? It’s like I am in slumber. It’s like I am dreaming. I left for Germany in 2015 from Libya. I got to Libya in 2011 and left when Ghaddaffi was killed. I went to school in Germany up to a year studying their language.
“After leaving the camp where they always keep refugees, they kept mr in in an apartment but I found out that the wall was getting spoilt. I complained and they took me out. Since then, I was in the camp. Life in the camp was another matter entirely. There was too much crowd and there was no privacy. You have to use your brain in all you do.”
Recalling how she was arrested, Nelta said: “ I was at home on Sunday when more than 10 policemen came around 10am. I was about going to bed then and was only wearing a ‘nighty’ without bra when they barged into me. It was not up to two hours after I finished cooking and trying to rest when they came in. They parked a few things for me, and handcuffed me while holding me down. I was just screaming and asking why they were doing all that to me.
“Still tying me inhumanly, they were telling me to calm down. I subsequently saw myself at the airport; there at their airport, they removed the handcuff and asked me to pull my cloth because they needed to check my system to be sure that nothing was wrong with me. When I persisted in asking why they were doing all that to me, they said I was going back to Nigeria. I then asked if that was enough for them to subject me to all that bestial treatment and they said they were sorry for the assault and kept telling me that I should be calm.”
It was also a distasteful experience for Blessing, who was deported with her daughter.
“I went to Germany from Italy. I was in Italy from 2011 to 2016. It was when I was pregnant that my husband asked me to go to Germany. I had problems with the German authorities because of the document I was given to enter the country. The immigration officers here collected the document and told me it was not genuine and asked me to pay some money. I paid 100 Euro and got a lawyer. They thereafter detained me for six hours. I was taken from Colone to Bourne; Bourne again took me back to Colone. I was expecting to come back to Nigeria or Italy but they didn’t agree.
“In the accommodation that they gave me, they gave me a condition that no man must come and visit me, not even my husband. I agreed because he was not in Germany. When my husband attempted to come, they arrested him and deported him. Yes, when my husband came from Italy to visit us, they arrested and deported him insisting that he would not see us. They placed three officers around me throughout the trip back home.”
At about 1am on Monday, the slim built mother said: “ My baby had a bang on the door and called ‘Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!’ I asked if she was the one knocking the door, she said no and added that somebody was knocking. The policemen kept quiet and were listening. When I opened the door, I saw more than six officers looking like ghosts by that odd hours of the day.
“They tied so many guns around their waists as if they were chasing criminals.
When I asked them what the matter was, they said: ‘Blessing, good morning; we are taking you back to Nigeria’. I said: ‘Really? Oh! Thank you Jesus’.
They were shocked. I didn’t really know what came over me, as I had packed my baby’s things the previous night. They asked me to take a luggage not weighing more than 20 kilos for me and 20 for my daughter.”
Activist decries deportees’ plight
The Co-ordination Activist for Network Refugees 4Refugees, a political platform for refugees/migrant self-organisation based in Stuttgart, Germany, Rex Osa, decried the plight of the deportees. According to him, “The silence of the government is condemnable knowing full well the positive impact of those diaspora Nigerians have been making on the economic stability of Nigeria. Even by playing it down to so-called diplomacy, can a government be so insensitive to the likely implication of deporting 30,000 suspected Nigerians with the ongoing insecurity in the country and the returning migrants from North Africa and South Africa?
“Quite a large number of those being deported from Germany at the moment are persons who have been working and contributing to boost the German economy. The Nigerian government should at the least engage in calling for regularisation even at our political stand of denouncing selection.”
Amongst the deportees, Rex said are persons with serious medical situation resulting from Germany’s racist tradition that forces people into bad working conditions and otherwise racist isolation that has created many psychiatric problems for migrants in Germany. “Nigeria is now witnessing a minimum of two deportation flights from Germany on a monthly basis accompanied by massive human rights abuse and violence on even children.
“The immigration claims to do the job of profiling and thereafter dump them outside the cargo airport premises to find their way. Those whose passports were handed over to the immigration are not able to get them back. Even health concerns that may require urgent attention in the interest of the Nigerian society are being ignored.”
Concluding, he said: “Germany on its own is not respecting its legal provisions on protection. Give us the names of those you are expected to issue deportation documents for and we will furnish you with enough reasons why they should not be deported even in the frame of the racist German laws.”
Human trafficking: PJI urges proper trauma management for returnees
The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.
Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.
The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.
Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.
“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.
“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.
She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.
How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US
A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun narrated how he burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.
“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.
Giving details of how he executed the task, the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet. I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet. I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok. I asked how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and he called back the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.
“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet. In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them. When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.
Thereafter, Balogun said the police processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss. The girls cooperated and made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”
Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back my experience as a police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect and want to join?”
He hinted that his security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria. There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.
“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood. You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’ For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”
He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that. We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs. We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president. We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”
Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table. We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47. I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation. They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum and choose.”
As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it. Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “
On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses. My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here. We are looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.
“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it. With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place. It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die. But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”
Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.
There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.
“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.
The study is based on labour market data.
The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.
The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.
If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.
No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.
However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.
The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.
Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.
A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.
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