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.
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“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.”
Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants
Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.
Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000 Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.
“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018. “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”
Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.
With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000 registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.
“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
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