Discordant tunes over deportation of Nigerian migrants from Germany
*Nobody was deported, claims Nigerian Immigration •We’re aware deported migrants landed on August 19 –FAAN
*Nigerian Embassy, Germany: 27 Nigerian migrants were deported from Frankfurt •NASS to tackle inhuman treatment of deportees
Last weekend, we published a report about how Nigerian migrants were put in hand and leg cuffs while being deported from Frankfurt to Murtala Muhammed International Airport by the German authorities and secretly dumped outside the airport.The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigeria Embassy in Germany, in this follow up to the report,confirmed the deportation. But despite the overwhelming evidence that the deportation took place, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) surprisingly said there was no deportation from Germany. INNOCENT DURU reports the discordant tunes that trail the deportation.
What does Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) have to hide about the deportation of Nigerian migrants from Germany on August 19? This obviously is the question that would come to the mind of any rational person reading this report.
For the past two weeks, we have published reports about the deportation of Nigerian migrants from Frankfurt, Germany. The first, published on August 17, was an exclusive news report that Germany was going to deport some Nigerian migrants on Monday, August 19, 2019 and that they would arrive the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, between 2pm and 3pm.
On the said day, the deportation took place as exactly published in the report, albeit in a very secretive manner. We adequately captured every bit of the exercise last weekend, August 24, 2019 in our elaborate special report.
In spite of the pictorial evidence that validated the deportation, the Nigeria Immigration Service shockingly denied that Germany deported any Nigerian migrants on the said date.
The national spokesperson of the NIS, Sunday James, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, unequivocally said the Murtala Muhammed Airport office informed them that there was no such deportation when he inquired from them. “There was no deportation from Germany to my knowledge. Even last week, some of your media colleagues called to that effect and we confirmed from the Lagos Airport office that there was nothing like that. Yes from the Lagos Airport, there was nothing like that. As at the last time I spoke with our office in Lagos, they said there was nothing like that and that was last week.”
Explaining the organisation’s role when people are deported, he said: “Our role as immigration officials is to profile them to know why they were deported, and how many they are.”
Aside the deportation last Monday, James, also unequivocally denied that Germany had deported any Nigerian migrants this year even when our findings revealed that some Nigerian migrants were earlier deported. The Nigerian Embassy in Germany also corroborated our findings. A Minister Information, Culture and Education at the Nigerian Embassy in Germany, Peter Lambat, told The Nation that 335 Nigerian migrants have been deported this year from Germany.
But the NIS PRO said: “I am not aware that Nigerian migrants were deported in July. I don’t know the last time people were deported from Germany. If it is Germany, I don’t know. I don’t have any business with deportation as the PRO; it is only when the Comptroller General is informed and communicated. The process is done through the investigation section. When this is done, definitely, I will know.”
Asked when and how the service receives information about deportation of Nigerians, he said: “Signals for deportation don’t come to me, they go to the CGS. I don’t know of any deportation from Germany, quote me authoritatively as the service PRO. There is supposed to be an advanced notification that people would be deported but I as the service PRO, Iam not aware of any but the service may be aware.”
FAAN, Nigerian Embassy confirm our report
Contrary to NIS’ blatant denial of the deportation, however, the Federal Aiport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Embassy in Germany have officially confirmed that the exercise took place.
The FAAN spokesperson, Henrietta Yakubu, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, confirmed the arrival of the deportees at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, penultimate Monday. “Yes, they landed on August 19 but I don’t have details about the aircraft that brought them. “
Prodded further to comment on why the deportees were secretly taken out of the airport and dumped outside theNigerian Aviation Handling Company( NAHCO )premises, Yakubu said: “Honestly I don’t have that information for you. We have ministries that take care of deportees. It is not FAAN that does that. You need to get that information from another agency. Ours is that they landed at the airport.”
The Nigerian envoy in Germany, Peter Lambat, also confirmed that the deportation took place. “To the best of our knowledge, the last deportation batch was on 19th August, 2019.
Headquarters was informed to facilitate welcome and other actions by relevant government institutions.”
Providing statistics of deported Nigerian migrants since the beginning of the year and those currently in prison in German, Lambat said: “By our records, 27 people were deported that day. There are 129 Nigerian prisoners across German prisons; 335 have been deported from January 2019 to date.
“Deportations are carried out after due administrative processes as initiated by the German authorities and in conjunction with the Nigerian Embassy. Hence, no estimates of future deportations can be made for now.”
Asked why Germany put the deportees in in chain while deporting them, the envoy said the mission was not aware of what conditions the deportees were subjected to en route Lagos, Nigeria, adding:” Embassy officials do not accompany deportees on the homeward journey.
“His Excellency, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar had a meeting with the German State Secretary of Interior, Dr. Helmut Teichmann on 23/8/19 and the following was gathered:
“The ministry had not received any such report on this particular flight.
Some of the deportees are convicts that have finished serving prison terms, often for committing violent crimes;
“Deportees are only cuffed when they become violent and also when there is a high level threat assessment to the flight crew, officials and the other deportees; even at that, the cuffs are only of plastic materials.
“The embassy always takes allegations of inhumane treatment of Nigerians very seriously, which is why the ambassador and senior diplomats in the embassy physically met with the Interior Ministry’s Permanent Secretary and most senior civil servant, Mr Teichmann. The embassy also monitors the treatment and conditions of Nigerians in detention and/or serving prison terms and promptly responds to complaints.”
Lambat, however, said the embassy would inquire from the German Police and other relevant organs on what transpired necessitating the inhuman cuffing of the deportees in the Frankfurt to Lagos flight. Further enquiries would also be made on earlier such treatments which run contrary to the rights of dignified home return. This will inform embassy’s next line of action.
“The Nigerian government remains committed to the protection of the human rights of its citizens at all times anywhere in the world, including those of the deportees. This remains a sacrosanct duty of the government.”
Debunking allegations that Nigerian embassy officials connive with the German authorities to deport the migrants, he said: “It is absurd and unthinkable that a Nigerian diplomat would/could collude with German authorities to deport Nigerians from Germany.The point is, there are agreements/protocols that are being adhered to. The whole exercise of interview of asylum seekers is transparently conducted by the German Police and embassy officials. Cases are treated on their merits.
“Those bordering on health, marital/divorce and children custodianship cases are accorded deference until fully settled. It’s only after all the above have been considered by the Joint Team of Embassy and German Police that Emergency Travel Certificates (ETCs) are issued to enable the home bound journey.”
Our ugly encounter with NIS officials over deportation of migrants –Germany based activist
The co-ordination activist for Network Refugees 4Refugees, a political platform for refugees/migrant self-organisation based in Stuttgart, Germany, Rex Osa, told The Nation how officials of NIS allegedly harassed him and his colleagues when they moved to assist the deportees. “Before the arrival of the deportees, we went to the airport to see how we could assist these guys when they were deported. We wrote a letter to the NIS to that effect. One of the officials told us that we could wait for the deportees at the entry gate where they would leave them after their arrival. He said it is after they finish with their profiling work, that we could do our humanitarian work because they would at that point have nothing more to offer them.
“He said as long as they are back, they are on their own. It was really shocking. I was trying to explain to him that some of the people were sick. He didn’t seem to be interested. The only thing he told us was that we could wait for them at the gate to render the help we wanted. He said that if he should find out that we were intercepting their job, then there would be problem. Then I asked him: ‘What do you mean by intercepting your job?’
“The next thing he told me was: ‘don’t you understand English? You don’t understand what interception means?’ I further demanded to know what he meant so that we would not cross our boundary but he didn’t answer again. The next thing he did was to say: ‘ I thought I have finished with you people’. Indirectly he was telling us to get out from there”.
On that very day those migrants were deported, Rex said: ” I saw an ambulance moving towards the arrival. One of the deportees, Mike, told me that they called for ambulance because the immigration refused to take one guy because they said they didn’t want him to die in their hands. At the time the ambulance came, an immigration officer went over to the German police officer in the plane.
“When he was coming back, the same NIS officer, who rejected the guy, was the one binging him down from the flight. Who knows what might have happened? “
We’ll work with executives to tackle inhuman treatment of deportees- House Committee Chair on Refugee and IDP matters
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North-East Initiatives, Hon. Muhammed Umar Jega, has decried the alleged hand and leg cuffing of the deportees by the German authorities, assuring that the committee would work with the executive to stop subsequent acts of inhuman treatment of Nigerians by Germany.
READ ALSO: Horrors of asylum seekers (1)
“Nigeria has not fared well in ensuring that the people were brought back with dignity. If our citizens could be deported with handcuffs, there was no dignity in that. They should be able to respect the MoU signed with them. We would be engaging the executive on how to ensure that our citizens are treated with dignity by Germany when deporting them.
“It was inhuman for Germany to hand cuff them inside a plane. Were they going to run away from the plane? That is inhuman treatment that shows no respect for human rights. We should be able to enlighten our own citizens so that even if they want to migrate, they should do so in a much more decent manner. They should not just leave the country like that and go into a derogatory life. It is not the best.”
The lawmaker said the National Commission for Refugees was “supposed to attend to the deportees when they arrived, at least to settle them down and provide some support for them to go back to their families.”
Contacted to know why the commission was not on ground to attend to the deportees, the spokesperson of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFR), Zainab Banu, said the new head has not been given her mandate and cannot yet speak on public issues.
German Embassy in Nigeria delays reply to questions on inhuman treatment of deportees
When our correspondent contacted the officer in charge of Legal and Consula Matters in the German Embassy in Nigeria, Hanno Hille, on Monday, for comments on the inhuman treatment allegedly meted out to the deportees, he demanded that the questions should be forwarded to his email as he would not want to speak on such matters on the phone. He immediately sent his email address.
Three days after sending the message, no response has been received from the German Embassy, prompting the reporter to call Hille again to ask him for the response.
Responding, he said: “I have received the email. I have forwarded it to the press department and they are working on it.”
When asked when the response would be ready, he replied: “I can’t say when they would respond because we are in different sections. They are working on it and you will receive a response in due course. That is all I can tell you.”
Risking it all crossing the Darien Gap, a treacherous trek no one should tackle
In the notorious Darien Gap spanning the Colombia-Panama border, a young pregnant woman and her husband from Haiti were left alone to face the unforgiving jungle along one of the world’s most dangerous irregular migration routes.
No roads, poisonous snakes, steep mountain ranges, raging rivers and groups of armed robbers had deterred Jean Horima, 25, and his wife Rose from risking their lives as thousands of desperate people from countries such as Haiti, Cuba, Bangladesh or Somalia do every year trying to reach the United States, Canada or Mexico.
More than 42,000 Haitians, including thousands of children, have tackled the perilous journey so far this year, hoping to gain refugee status and better futures. Many have not made it and Jean and Rose know they are lucky to have survived, especially as the baby came early.
“The jungle is brutal; it’s really, really tough. The hardest thing for me was to climb the mountains and cross the water,” says Jean. ”There are also people in the forest who will rob or kill you. I know some who got killed. Yes, people who left before me and when I arrived, I found them dead in the woods.”
The couple had started the week-long slog from the Colombia side with 50 others, but when the first hill loomed, the group abandoned them. After several days tackling the dense rainforest, Rose went into labour in the middle of nowhere.
“I was with my wife, and she told me what to do to help and save her,” says Jean. She gave birth and told her husband to cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors. “I also had a black string, so I told him to use it to tie the baby’s umbilical cord. Then, we used a t-shirt to make a bag to put the baby in,” says Rose.
The birth of a healthy baby boy gave them the courage and strength to continue and three days later, the exhausted but relieved family emerged at the Migrant Reception Station (ERM* by its Spanish acronym) in San Vicente, Panama, which is managed by the Panamanian Government with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
Vertulo Renonce and Guerline Mettelus from Haiti have also survived the Darien trek. They had travelled from Chile with their three-year-old son Louvertir, and crossed Colombia’s border with Panama in February. The couple has five other children and hope to join their two eldest in Guatemala. The other three are still in Haiti.
The parents have had difficulty communicating with their children since they arrived at the migrant reception centre in Lajas Blancas, but life there is not just an emotional drain.
“The can of milk Louvertir drinks costs USD 4.50 and about every two days I have to buy a new one,” says Guerline. The room in the Guatemala hostel where her children are staying is USD 20 a night, and her children in Haiti have missed school for more than a month because their fees have not been paid.
They arrived in Panama with USD 400 they had hidden from three armed attackers who had robbed their group of 14 people along the way and have only USD 3 left.
Lajas Blancas looks like a small neighbourhood where up to 500 people can be sheltered. Near the only entrance is a small kiosk where people gather to buy refreshments and biscuits and to charge their mobile phones. Off to the right are tents, showers and toilets. Down by the river is the quarantine and care area for people with COVID-19, where access is restricted.
Outside his tent, Jean François, who left Haiti in 2015, is grateful for the respite in his journey from Brazil with his four children. He greets a childhood friend who dumps firewood collected from the riverbank to prepare rice and beans.
“The food they give us here is not bad, but it is not made with love. That’s what we need,” says Jean François. They had survived a week in the jungle with very little food and travelled from Necoclí, Colombia. “Among the 230 people who crossed the jungle, there were around 100 children. It hurts to see them; the children don’t deserve this,” he says.
In the San Vicente ERM, Jean Paul, his wife and their four children are taking a breather on their way to the United States. After the perils of the Darien Gap, they must still travel through Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
They travelled by boat to the border of Colombia and Panama, where they paid a “coyote”, or migrant smuggler, to walk them through the jungle in groups of hundreds of migrants, most of them Haitian nationals.
On the swings and slide in San Vicente, three of Jean’s young children play.
It’s noon. The officers of the National Border Service are handing out the food and people are crowding at the entrance waiting for their turn. Jean Michelet is sitting with a plate of food in one hand and, lying in his arms, is one-year-old Alejandro, who has not wanted to eat since they arrived at the station three days earlier.
Jean Michelet made sure the three eldest children had eaten and took them to play, giving his wife who sleeps in one of the houses a break. Unsuccessfully, he keeps trying to get his baby to eat. In his face you can see anguish – concern for the future and the pain of remembering the nightmare of the merciless Darien Gap.
*The ERM was built by the Government of Panama with support from international cooperation, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and private enterprise to reduce overcrowding in La Peñita, another ERM. San Vicente provides dignified conditions in which physical separation and other biosecurity measures can be maintained to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Story written by José Espinosa Bilgray, IOM Panama.
Stitching hope: Empowering women in South Sudan towards self-reliance
It is only the first day of training in hand-sewing and the women already have big plans about how they are going to use their newly acquired skills to support their families to gain independence.
“Once I get the hang of hand-sewing, I will learn how to sew with a machine. From there, I will make bedsheets, curtains and tablecloths to sell and use the money to provide for my children,” says 50-year-old Adut Akwar.
Adut and 14 other women from the Hai Masna Collective Centre, an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state, are part of the selected group to be trained by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in an array of techniques including sewing, business and entrepreneurship as well as leadership skills. The group comprises women living with disabilities, young mothers and female-headed households.
Adut lives in Masna with her six children. They fled their home in 2017 when renewed fighting rocked their village in Jur River, forcing thousands of people, including women, children and the elderly to flee to save their lives. Many found refuge in Hai Masna (hosting 3,850 IDPs) and other collective centres around Wau, while the majority of the displaced sheltered at Naivasha IDP camp, formerly known as the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Wau.
She is among the 40 women from Hai Masna and Naivasha who have benefited from the training workshops through the Women Participation Project (WPP). Through this project, IOM’s Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) team facilitates women’s access to income-generating activities through vocational and leadership skills training to support them to become self-reliant, encourage them to raise their concerns when they have them and take up leadership roles within the IDP camp and within their communities.
“I am very impressed by the enthusiasm that the women have shown in learning these skills which will help them in rebuilding their lives,” says Titus Muniri, IOM CCCM’s Community Participation Assistant.
“Some women who participated in previous trainings have even gone up and taken leading roles in the camp’s governance structures. We have four women who completed our training who were elected as members of the Community Leadership Committee (CLC) in Naivasha camp,” says Titus.
Adut Akwar says that she “has a plan.”
“When I return home, I will go back to ploughing my fields to grow food for my children,” she says.
“That’s not it though,” she adds with a renewed sense of excitement. “I will also use my time to sew bedsheets that I can sell to make an income.”
Adut says that she hopes that as peace holds in Western Bahr el Ghazal, more women will choose to leave the camps and return to their villages.
“When we leave, we can come together and form women-led cooperatives putting to use the business management and craft-making skills we learnt. We can make some real changes in our lives,” says Adut.
Adut, who was born with congenital upper limb reduction, says that she has never been one to depend on others to do things for her because of her disability.
“I guess, being born with a disability, you are also born with an inherent sense that you have to push harder to show the world that you can,” says Adut. “That is why when I was selected for the workshop, I did not think twice about joining.”
“Sure, I may need help putting the thread through the needle, but the rest I can learn and do by myself,” says Adut.
The Women Participation Project (WPP) is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) under the global “Safe from the Start Initiative” through which IOM’s CCCM team facilitates women’s access to income-generating activities.
To find out more about the Women’s Participation Project, visit https://womenindisplacement.org/
Written by Liatile Putsoa, Media and Communications Officer.
Observatory on smuggling of migrants
The Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants is a research initiative funded by the Governments of Denmark, Canada, Japan and Italy, and is being implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime since 2019. The website of the Observatory was launched in May 2021.
Smuggling of migrants is a complex crime involving the facilitation of the irregularly entry of people into a country for profit. Migrants are smuggled across borders with the financial or material gain. In establishing an Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants, UNODC seeks to gather information, collect, analyze and disseminate data to enhance the knowledge on this crime and inform evidence-based policy and law enforcement responses.
The UNODC Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants gathers data on key areas including migrants’ plans and preparations for the journey – particularly in relation to contact with smugglers, key smuggling routes and experiences on the journey, profiles of migrant smugglers and networks of organized crime, prices for smuggling services and mode of payment, and the types of abuses suffered in the context of smuggling.
Building on data collected in Nigeria and other countries in West and North Africa as well as in Europe, the Observatory has already published findings on smuggling of migrants along the Central Mediterranean Route. Upcoming findings will cover the use of migrant smugglers by Nigerians on the move.
Moreover, UNODC is partnering with the Mixed Migration Centre to collect data in transit and destination countries in West and North Africa to gain specific data on Nigerian use of smugglers in the region. MMC has produced a snapshot of emerging findings based on this research partnership.
Risking it all crossing the Darien Gap, a treacherous trek no one should tackle
Stitching hope: Empowering women in South Sudan towards self-reliance
Observatory on smuggling of migrants
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