Ibrahim left Nigeria in 2010 to Turkey for his Masters degree.
When he found out that job opportunities were hard to come by in Turkey, he moved to Germany.
The German economy, he believed, was very good as they had more jobs than the people. He settled in Stuttgart, where he spent the next seven years of his life.
The world was smiling at him; everything seemed to be going on well, until November 17, 2021.
Ibrahim was arrested on his way from work and taken to a cell and then taken to court where his residency was repealed. His hands and legs were handcuffed and he was kept in the deportation camp before being deported to Nigeria.
“I never had a criminal record; I had everything, the only thing I don’t have is the residency permit. I am even in school, learning their language. I was taken to a prison and I don’t deserve this. Although I spent just seven days, it felt like 7 years. I think I am just unlucky,” Ibrahim lamented during an interview.
Ibrahim is one of the 32 (all males) Nigerians deported from Germany and Austria on November 23, 2021. Their stories are similar; they have all been rounded up while going about their regular businesses in different parts of the two countries.
They were taken to court and they were all marked for deportation.
“They just enter your house and arrest you; you know these German people have keys to everybody’s house and from there straight to prison,” says Wilson, a musician and DJ with over 150 songs.
“I have spent nine years in Austria; I have never committed a crime. I was not allowed to pick up anything when I was arrested. When taken to the embassy, the official said the real Nigerians are in Nigeria, enjoying, before signing my TC,” said Ogaze, another of the deportees.
On their way to Nigeria, they had different expectations but as it turned out, they were just dumped in a hotel where they spent the next seven days.
“Each person had four officials guarding them. While on the plane if you wanted to ease yourself, at least three people would follow you, in case you wanted to try anything funny,” Ibrahim stated.
“With about 30 of us, there were about 150 policemen on the aircraft till we got to Lagos,” Wilson said while corroborating Ibrahim’s story.
“I actually expected they were going to hand us over to the Nigerian police and they would take us somewhere; then tell us to call our families to come and bail us,” added Wilson, showing his excitement at the welcome he got.
The hotel they stayed in was reportedly secured by an organisation called “German Home and Abroad.”
The organisation also paid for their mandatory Covid-19 tests. Efforts to talk to the management of the hotel proved abortive, as the manager said she was not authorised to speak to the media.
Since in Nigeria, there has not been any government official or representative to meet or address the deportees.
They all left the hotel on 30 November, to their respective unidentified locations.
“I need help. Right now as I am here now, I have nothing because they took me from my working place. I had 70 euros that was in my wallet before I went to work but I came back with 64 euro, 57 cents. My money is not complete,” lamented Gabriel who has been in Germany since 2017 and was told his asylum is over.
“Some of these people need help, a lot of people here might go crazy if care is not taken, because of the things they have experienced,” Ibrahim warned.
“Imagine having to call people who are angry at you that you were not sending them money while in Europe, that you have been deported,” Wilson added.
“We have been abandoned here. Some of us have spent over a decade abroad, how do we start again? It would have been good if we had help from the government,” one of them who asked not to be identified also lamented.
The deportation, it was learnt, came in the wake of the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus. As at the time of filing this report, Germany had already declared 4 cases and Nigeria had declared 4 cases. Although they were tested, the deportees had not been declared fit to go before they were all ejected from the hotel.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its guidelines had mandated all passengers who arrived in Nigeria to self-isolate for 14 days and remain in the city/state where the point of entry is located (i.e. Lagos or Abuja) throughout the duration of self-isolation.
“We have been told by the manager about an hour ago that the Corona test is not ready and we should drop our numbers and the results will be sent to us by email or WhatsApp,” revealed Gabriel.
“With the whole Covid-19 thing, it is not even good for the country that we are just allowed into the country like that,” decried Ogaze, who has traversed prison and deportation camps in both Austria and Germany since his arrest on September 22, 2021.
Another deportee, who would not identify himself, said he has been in prison for three years in Italy and a year in Germany. He had taken the deportation option because he did not want to continue life abroad behind bars. Without any debrief or rehabilitation, he was now in Nigeria, free.
Earlier this year, Germany had announced its intention to deport 12,000 Nigerians but according to Rex Osa, a refugee rights activist, the number has actually increased over the time as more asylum cases are being rejected alongside cases of persons whose residency have been withdrawn for one reason or the other.
Rex Osa is a Nigerian refugee rights activist residing in Germany.
He coordinates Deportees Emergency Reception and Support (DERS), a project of “Network Refugees4Refugees” based in Germany. The DERS Team provides emergency support like telephone calls to family members of arriving deportees, organising taxis, paying transportation cost and offering a few night accommodation for stranded deportees especially mothers, children and sick persons.
According to Rex, Germany has in the last years been propagating deceptive amendments for the regularisation of migrants living for many years in limbo. Many of these migrants have taken up terrible employment conditions, paid taxes and contributed immensely in the development of the German economy.
“Many of the deportees at the moment are actually eligible for residency permits based on a so-called standard of integration as presented in the new regularisation amendments. With the situation of deportation in the last months, it is quite obvious that the regularisation offer was a deception to have the passport of these persons before they could realise themselves, they are already taken into deportation Custody and finally deported to Nigeria.” he explained.
Rex further informed that, these persons in question have been living with a so-called Toleration status tagged “Duldung” in German- meaning suspension of deportation which could be based on different conditions but mostly the inability for the German authority to obtain Passport/Identity document that should facilitate the deportation. So once the Passport is available, the authorities are very quick to enforce deportation with ease.
Most of the deportees had lamented the complicity of the Nigerian Embassy, saying “unlike people of other nationalities, our own embassy gave us out easily by signing our TC.”
“Embassy officials are usually invited by the German deportation authority to identify persons suspected as their citizens. Such an invitation has been scandalised by activists as “Mobile Deportation Hearing.”
It is meant to facilitate the issuance of deportation certificates through a confirmation of the migrant’s identity as their citizen. Those summoned to these hearings are identified by the embassy delegation based on their names, physical appearance and accent.
“The hearing is usually accompanied with police violence and abuse. Anyone who had been to such hearings would have to risk police arrest and deportation as soon as the embassy issues out the travel certificate in the place of a Nigerian passport to the German authority,” Rex stated.
The activist also berates the Nigerian government, saying they are not doing enough to protect the citizens.
“We do see other Government delegations coming to Europe to negotiate terms of agreement that will favour its citizens in Germany. For the few delegations from Nigeria, it is very clear that their meetings with the German authorities are only meant to agree on imposed terms of so-called development /re-integration funding in exchange for accepting the deportation of Nigerians.
“Since 2019, we have continued to draw government attention to the situation of deported persons to Nigeria. It’s really disappointing to see how the Government has ignored this issue even with the current circumstances of the pandemic and insecurity in the country.
“We have tried to engage the different Stakeholders like the National Commission for Refugee/IDP and different Platforms of Migration CSOs. They all seem to be handicapped as what we usually hear is that there are no funds available for them to support these people.”
“It is very shameful to allow such a continued act of smuggling (suspected) Nigerians into the country as experience has shown that these deportation enforcement flights are only communicated to the Nigerian authorities at the last minute,” Rex said.
A general statement among the deportees is that they have no criminal record and they also lament being treated like criminals.
“Even someone that killed people does not have his arms and legs chained, I only came into their country for a better life,” one of the deportees said.
Rex also chided Germany’s criminalisation of migrants saying the deportees who are usually presented as criminals have actually not committed any crime except for the fact that they have refused to present a passport to facilitate their own deportation.
Many of the deportees have worked in the country for years and fear that they have lost all that they have laboured for, including their pensions. However, Rex provides a glimmer of hope, informing them about the possibility of recovering their own pension contribution.
“For many years Germany has held back pensions of migrants who had worked for many years before they were finally deported. The DERS team offered to send them the necessary forms to apply for their pension but that will only be possible after two years of being out of the German system,” he revealed.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) admitted it was aware of the 32 deportees.
“Our job is to receive whoever is coming in. When they arrive, our duty is to look at them. Are they admissible? If they are admissible, we endorse their documents and hand them over to the NCDC for the normal quarantine process and immigration has no control over that process,” an official of the service said.
However, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM through its Spokesperson, Rahman Balogun said, adding that they were not aware of the deportees arrival.
In the absence of government intervention, the DERS team in Lagos provided transportation funds for the stranded deportees to their respective locations after being dumped by the German officials. They all cried to the Nigerian government to make the country a better place, so that they would not have to be treated as undesirable elements elsewhere.
“The Nigerian government should make the country a better place so that when they are deporting people, the deportees would be happy to return to the country. If the Europeans see deportees feeling happy, they would be frustrated and disappointed,” one of them noted.