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Asylum seekers protesting at the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin against what they considered the indiscriminate issuance of travel documents to would-be deportees. More than 12,000 Nigerian asylum seekers face deportation between now and the end of 2018 , say German officials/ Photo: dpa

12,000 Nigerians in Germany to be deported

More than 12,000 Nigerian asylum seekers in Germany face deportation, it was disclosed yesterday (7 February).

The Global Head of Programme, Migration and Development at the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development, Dr Ralf Sanftenberg, made the disclosure when he visited the Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa in Abuja.

Sanftenberg said: “We have over 37,000 Nigerians in Germany and more than 12,000 of them are asylum seekers”.

He explained that Nigeria being not at war and since the country does not persecute citizens on account of their political views, there was very little chance for the success of the Nigerians’ asylum claims. Sanftenberg emphatically added that 99 per cent of the Nigerians were likely to be denied asylum status.

“They may be forced to come back to Nigeria next year,” he said.

Sanftenberg explained that if the Nigerian asylum seekers were willing to return voluntarily they would not be deported but would be assisted through a support programme.

“We provide services for the returning migrants in Nigeria, we can provide training for entrepreneurship,” he explained.

“What we are doing is to support the returnees to be reintegrated.”

A consultant to the German returnee programme, Stephania Alofokhia-Ghogomu, urged Nigerians seeking asylum in Germany to return home.

Ms Alofokhia-Ghogomu said she had spent half of her life in Germany and had come back to contribute to the development of Nigeria.

“If they chose to come back voluntarily they can get into the reintegration programmes that are already available for them.

“But if they refuse to come back voluntarily they will be deported, and if they are deported, they cannot go back to any EU countries in the next five years,” she explained.

“That is why it is advisable to return voluntarily because they can always apply to go back to the place,” she said.

Responding, Mrs Dabiri-Erewa hailed Chancellor Angela Merkel for the way she was addressing the challenge of illegal migration.

The presidential aide called on Nigerians facing deportation in Germany to come back home and take advantage of the opportunities provided by the German government to assist them.

“Germany has a budget for the returnees and there are services that will be provided that they can enjoy,” Dabiri-Erewa counselled.

The German programme to pay asylum applicants in Germany to return to their home countries began on 1 February.

The programme called “StartHilfe Plus,” which loosely translates to “start help plus” is administered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in co-operation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The initiative aims to financially reward asylum applicants if they are willing to return to their homelands. About 40 million euros ($43 million) has been set aside for payments.

In 2016, about 55,000 persons voluntarily returned to their homelands   compared to 35,000 who left in the year before.

Kola Tella & Sola Jolaoso

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