When, in October, the Nigeria High Commission in London expressed worry over the migration and removal policy of the UK Government which it said may lead to the deportation of 29,000 Nigerians, the country’s lawmakers were worried and the people apprehensive of what may become of their relatives who send money home. Their fears were understandable; remittance is second only to oil in terms of foreign exchange earnings for the country. Several Nigerians also rely on family members staying abroad for financial support. London alone hosts more than one million Nigerians.
The fears started becoming real when several local media reported that 500 Nigerians had been deported. The reports, citing BBC reporter, Umar Shehu Elleman, alleged that some of them were stranded in Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital.
However, Nigeria’s immigration service confirmed to the media that the number reported by Elleman was incorrect. “The actual number was 48 – all of whom were people who had broken UK law by remaining in the UK when they had no right to be there, and who had been given full right of appeal, and had exhausted that legal process,” wrote British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright in an Op- Ed.
“The UK cannot ignore those who choose not to play by the rules. Like Nigeria, the United Kingdom operates a robust but fair immigration system,” he claimed. “The law in the UK is very clear: those who are in the UK illegally and have made the choice not to leave voluntarily will be required to leave.”
Arkwright stressed that international obligations – particularly the European Convention on Human Rights – and Britain’s domestic law are strictly adhered to when decisions on deportation are made after which such decisions can be appealed and challenged.
He noted that the UK has various support packages to help those who are illegally in the UK but are ready to return to Nigeria voluntarily. However, those who remain defiant are forced to return as a last resort.
Highlighting the openness of the UK to Nigerians, Arkwright noted that the 2014-15 global demand for UK visas from Nigerian nationals was 168,000. “Of these, 73% of visit applications were successful, a rise of 5% from the previous year. In addition, 50% of settlement applications were successful.”
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria writes further: “The UK and Nigeria have an excellent commercial relationship with £6.1 bn worth of trade per year.”
What Britain wants, according to Arkwright, is that the numbers of business people travelling to and from Nigeria and the UK increase, so as to support the economies of both countries.
He notes that people who break the rules cannot expect to remain in the UK illegally but for Nigerians who want to travel to Britain for business or leisure, the doors are wide open.