WHILE the recent deportation of 48 Nigerians from Britain is still generating ripples, there are reports that 29,000 others may soon suffer the same fate. However, the British envoy to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, has dismissed the reports and explained that only 170 Nigerians might be deported. We hope that the envoy is right about the number.
Undoubtedly, Nigerians feel outraged that their fellow citizens are being deported en masse and in harrowing circumstances. It is known that deportation has always come with a great deal of hardship for the deported. Some- times, the immigration officers go beyond their brief and mistreat deportees. Some are arrested in the streets or at shopping malls and before they know what is happening, they are already at the airport. A few hours later they are airborne, and soon enough they are in Nigeria. Several of the deportees interviewed last week at the Murtala Muhammed Airport narrated such experiences.
Nigeria and the United Kingdom have had good relationship that dates hundreds of years. It is estimated that nearly two million British residents have their origins from Nigeria. We, therefore, expect British immigration officials not to mistreat Nigerians and allow them to exercise their rights within the law.
The most common immigration of- fences Nigerians are likely to commit in Britain would include overstayed visas, expired papers, and, of course, prisoners who have completed their sentences.
We advise British officials to follow due process in the pursuit and enforcement of the law in these matters. Special care must be taken concerning students whose studies might be jeopardized and whose life could be ruined by rashly uprooting them from their schools as a result of minor infractions. Let the concerned Nigerians be allowed to exhaust their options in the legal process fairly and transparently before they are deported.
We urge the Nigerian High Commission in Britain to show sufficient care and provide legal help, especially when a Nigerian is being unfairly treated, which is common in most immigration enforcement. A common complaint against Nigerian embassies have been their laid back attitude, their unwillingness to show concern and help distressed citizens, who feel abandoned by his country in a hostile foreign land. Indeed a few weeks ago, some Nigerians were expressing how upset they were about the lack of concern for the Nigerian High Commission to their plight during the deportation.
While we detest the clandestine deportation, we enjoin Nigerians, who travel abroad, to understand that they are more vulnerable to prejudices and mistreatment when they allow their travelling and immigration documents to expire. It is always unwise to wait till the last minute to renew the papers.
It is a fact that Nigerians are a very adventurous people and that in the last 40 years, there has been the urge to emigrate and seek for fortunes abroad. Many have been very successful; some have provided outstanding accomplishments in many fields of human endeavor, which have continued to power the pull.
On the debit side, however, have been others, whose trips have been not so successful, whose sojourn constituted a setback in their lives. Some embark on these perilous journeys to Europe without valid papers and the unlucky ones sometimes get deported.
Yet, in spite of all our problems, Nigeria is still good. The pasture is still green here. Nigeria’s capabilities and potentialities for growth are still being explored. It is still a land of opportunity for hard working people.
We appeal to the Federal Government to give Nigeria a better outlook, create an atmosphere of hope, and demonstrate that Nigeria’s possibilities are tremendous. Let it show that Nigeria is still a place the citizenry can fulfill their dreams.