EU threatens Nigeria with tough visa rules over irregular migration

The European Union has warned that it could impose restrictive visa implementation rules on Nigeria, if it failed to co-operate in the readmission of its nationals deported from EU member countries. A restrictive visa regime would make obtaining visas to EU countries more difficult for Nigerian applicants.

The EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Virginie Battu-Henriksson, said this in an interview with the Nigerian daily The PUNCH.

Nigerians are among top 10 nationals illegally staying in EU, she revealed in the report published by the newspaper on Tuesday.

Battu-Henriksson stated, “What the EU can do since new rules on short-stay visas to the EU became applicable on 2 February 2020, is to adapt the rules on processing short-stay visa applications, depending on whether a non-EU country cooperates satisfactorily on the return and readmission of their nationals staying irregularly in the EU.

“Under the new rules, the EU Commission will regularly assess the level of cooperation of non-EU countries on the readmission of irregular migrants. If the level of cooperation is insufficient, the commission, together with member states, can decide on a temporary more restrictive implementation of certain provisions of the visa code.

“This could have an impact on the processing time, the length of validity of the visa to be issued, the level of the visa fee to be charged and the fee waivers. It is important to note that this mechanism does not amount to a visa ban and does not call into question the right to submit an application for a visa or to be granted a visa. It only allows for a more restrictive implementation of some of the visa rules. This concerns short-stay visas to the Schengen area, covering stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.”

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Battu-Henriksson recalled that in 2016, an EU Council decision authorised the opening of negotiations on readmission agreement with Nigeria – making it only the second country in West Africa with which the EU was negotiating such a formal agreement.

The readmission agreement seeks to ensure that Nigerians travelling to the EU take only the legal routes and that Nigeria readily readmits its citizens deported from the EU.

“It is in our common interest to work on dissuading migrants to take dangerous irregular routes to Europe and risk exploitation. Returns and readmission are part of working on this common endeavour,” she said.

According to a recent report by the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Germany plans to deport more Nigerians this year. The government says there’re about 12,000 Nigerians in the country whose asylum applications have been rejected and have been asked to leave the country. Across, the 27-member EU, it’s believed that more than 100,000 Nigerians have no legal residency papers.

United States had last month imposed immigrant visa ban on Nigeria and five other countries. Citizens of the affected countries would not be allowed to apply for visas to emigrate to the US under the policy aimed at tightening “security for countries that don’t comply with the US minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.”

Kola Tella

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