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Horrors of asylum seekers (2)

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.”

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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.

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“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

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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.”

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

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UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

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“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

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Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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