Embassy Boss Ambushed Over Mass Deportation Of Nigerians
Nigerian High Commissioner in London turned his back on deportees today (8/12/2011).
High Commissioner Dr Tafida ignored calls from protesters to stop a mass deportation of up to 70 Nigerians from London to Lagos, scheduled for the evening.
Angry demonstrators ambushed Dr Tafida when he walked outside to bid farewell to guests. They demanded he stop tonight’s flight as aides rushed him back inside.
Britain needs Nigeria’s consent to deport its citizens. Eight members of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) work at the luxurious High Commission building in Central London. NIS staff confirm the nationality of detainees who the UK Border Agency (UKBA) want to deport to Nigeria by conducting interviews inside immigration prisons where they assess their accent and facial features.
Nigerians who work without permission can be arrested. The UKBA raids work places and (unlawfully) spot-checks people in the street who it suspects as ‘illegal immigrants‘. A six-month prison sentence is standard, followed by an indefinite period of detention in an ‘Immigration Removal Centre’ while the UKBA organises their deportation.
A Zimbabwean woman was detained for almost 2 years and regularly interviewed by NIS staff. Eventually, they accepted she was not Nigerian and the UKBA released her.
The High Commission claims “to protect the national interests of Nigeria within the United Kingdom”. However, migrant groups say their dignity is disrespected by the Embassy because it collaborates in their deportation. Some have built up considerable lives in the UK and are forced to leave it all behind.
Mass deportation ‘charter flights’ are particularly controversial. In August 2010 the UK expelled 124 Nigerians, including 10 children, on a single flight.
Six Nigerians have died during deportations from Europe – the highest number of fatalities from any one nationality. Last year Nigerian man Joseph Ndukadu Chiakwa died on a mass deportation from Switzerland. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has code-named its charter flights ‘Operation Majestic’ and used coaches branded ‘Just Go’ to drive deportees to the airport. On average each flight costs £150,000 of public money.
Campaigners say the UKBA has stopped using commercial flights to deport Nigerians. Instead private aircraft are chartered every 42 days for a collective expulsion. This comes after Immigration Authorities were embarrassed by the death of an Angolan deportee at the back of a British Airways flight in full sight of other passengers, some of whom spoke out to the media.
Protesters have started to target the Nigerian High Commission because they see it as a weak link in the deportation regime: “British politicians brag to the tabloid press about how many people they deport. But Embassy staff here are embarrassed to help these deportations and want to keep their involvement quiet. Nigerian consent is crucial for deportations to happen. The Iraqi Parliament ended deportations from Europe overnight in October when it refused to accept any more deportees”.
A refugee rights group in Germany claim Nigerian Embassy Staff there take a €500 bribe for every Nigerian they help deport. The ‘Voice Baden Württemberg’ said: “For each candidate interviewed the Nigerian embassy gets €250 and another €250 for issued travelling certificate”.
The UKBA is planning a mass deportation to Sri Lanka on Thursday 15th December. ‘Freedom From Torture’ has published new evidence of ongoing torture of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.