Dilemma of Nigerian immigrants in the UK

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 3 Jun 2007

Chris (not real name) was a successful businessman in Lagos. He lived in a duplex and had a fleet of cars. A few years ago, his problems began when the Federal Government banned the importation of the items he was dealing in. First, he moved out from his duplex to another modest accommodation. Then, he grounded some of his cars. And in June last year, Chris had no option but to relocate to the United Kingdom. How he managed to get to the UK is a top secret. But now that he is there, his heart is always in his mouth. Not that he is a criminal. But being an illegal immigrant, any raid by the police anywhere tells him he could be the one they are looking for.

Many Nigerians are in Chris’ shoes. While some are professionals contributing to the development of their countries of residence, the majority are illegal immigrants. Some get to their destinations with fake passports. Some come in as stowaways. Some even walk through the deserts, preferring to die there to living in bondage in Nigeria.

In his farewell nationwide broadcast last Monday, the immediate past President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said many Nigerians had lost hope for the future of the country. “Our citizens were leaving our shores in droves in search of better conditions in more advanced countries of Europe, the United States of America and the Middle East,” the former President said. But he erroneously believed that “many of these people are now returning home and are beginning to actively participate in the country’s development.”

Perhaps, Obasanjo based his statistics on people like the former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whom he lured back to Nigeria with ministerial appointments. Many other Nigerians who sing “He’s a miracle working God” in churches in the UK today are not just mouthing that song. To them, having the opportunity to leave Nigeria is the greatest thing God has done for them. It is immaterial if life in these foreign lands is harsh and brutish.

There is this story of a Nigerian who desperately wanted to live in the UK. He claimed to have come from Liberia on asylum after the UK police caught him and attempted to deport him. He reportedly went for an asylum interview but failed to name one of the popular bridges in Liberia as he was asked to do. He was deported.

Another Nigerian (name withheld) lived in Nottingham, UK, as an illegal immigrant. He reportedly had a heart failure and died in his room without the knowledge of his flat mates and fellow illegal immigrants. His corpse lay in his room for three days unnoticed. It was when the stench from his room became too much and when he could not also pick his phone, that his friends forced his door open and found him dead. They could not report this incident because their stay was illegal. They got somebody else to inform the police about the death as they packed their things and ran out of the house. When the police came, they allegedly found three passports in his room: one Nigerian, one South African and one Zimbabwean, with different names and fake visas. They also went to where he worked and realised he also used different names at different organisations.

The desperation to leave Nigeria at all cost is such that in December 2006, the US State Department ranked Nigeria as the second country with the largest number of applicants for the 2008 US Diversity Visa Lottery. Nigerian applicants totalled 684,000, second after Bangladesh with more than 1.7m applicants.

Britain has no visa lottery. But it plays host to an equally large number of Nigerians. Now, it has tightened its immigration control measures. Hitherto, one could pay some amount of money to get the British visa without attending any visa interview. But with the introduction of the thumbprint of all visa applicants, those holding fake visas are in for a tough time.

Last month, a young Nigerian who has been living in the UK for some years now, wanted to visit home. He had visited Nigeria many times in the past with a fake passport, but nobody had been able to detect that. But this time around, luck was not on his side. British immigration officials caught him at the airport as he came to board a flight to Lagos. They were able to detect that the passport he was holding was not his own. The young man is cooling off in prison now.

Most of those with fake or expired visas in the UK are apprehensive at the moment. They are afraid to go near the airport because they might be caught. They are not comfortable going to work anymore because they may be victims of an impromptu raid by immigration officials. Their condition has become that of a tick that perched on a scrotum – leave it, you are in trouble; kill it, you are in trouble.

If not for the self-centredness of our leaders, will Nigerians be dying to leave their country at all cost? The roads are deaths traps, but nobody cares to maintain them. The hospitals have remained mere consulting clinics. Constant electricity has continued to be a mirage. Some companies are closing down due to poor infrastructure. And unemployment is at its peak.

The country is richly endowed. But it has remained in the league of poor, underdeveloped nations because the environment is not right for its highly qualified citizens to thrive. They therefore help in developing the economies of their countries of residence while their own country rots away.

For the unskilled ones, migration means living as second-class citizens. All they do is to wash plates, serve as waiters and do security and other odd jobs. The women among them are even worse off. The Independent of London, in September 2006, reported that women migrants who travelled to Britain and other developed countries were put at risk of exploitation and abuse because governments overlooked and ignored them. The newspaper quoted a report of the United Nations Population Fund as saying that governments in the West were not doing enough to protect women from forced migration in the forms of sex trafficking, enforced marriages and employment abuses.

The new government of Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua should, as a matter of urgency, create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. It should also improve the infrastructure in the country. This will encourage people to establish businesses that will employ jobless citizens. Hence, poverty will be reduced and migration will cease to be attractive.

By and large, Nigerians should realise that migrating to Europe and America will not solve their problems. Chris is in a dilemma now. He wishes to come back and pick the pieces of his broken life, but his visa has since expired. He leaves on borrowed time in the UK. When and how he will come back remain a mystery.

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5 Comments »

  1. 1
    nene Says:

    Good day sir.
    My boyfriend schools @ arberden,so i love reading ur blog cos it gives me an idea of their lifestyle.
    Also,i like reading ur opinions of happenings in the country.I know Nigerians generally,’no de try’ but must u be so harsh.u focus too much on the ills of our govt.
    Please make recommendations when u critize. Thank u

  2. 2

    tell me about uk visa latery

  3. 3

    […] Dilemma of Nigerian immigrants in the UK June 20072 comments […]

  4. At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast coming over again to read further news.

  5. 5

    I go to see day-to-day some sites and blogs to read posts, however this weblog presents feature based articles.


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