The United Kingdom has said that all asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals are considered on their individual merits in accordance with its international obligations.
The British High Commission stated this on Wednesday, in response to inquiries on the Federal Government’s allegations that the UK’s asylum offer for persecuted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra undermined Nigeria’s security.
Recall that the UK Visas and Immigration had released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications to IPOB members whose founder, Nnamdi Kanu, is operating from London.
In the guidelines titled, ‘Country Policy and Information Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups,’ released in March, the UKVI, a division of the Home Office, directed its decision makers to consider if a person “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution.’’
It further said the UK must also consider if the arrest and prosecution of IPOB members for clamouring for the break-up of the country were acts of prosecution, not persecution.
However, the Federal Government has frowned on the UK immigration guidelines, describing them as support for terrorism.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who declared that the decision is disrespectful, noted that it amounted to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security.
Responding to the allegations by the Federal Government, the British High Commission in an apparent rebuff, said the UK had a proud history of providing protection to those who needed it.
The emailed statement read: ” The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.
“Our country policy and information notes are published on the gov.uk website. They are kept under constant review and updated periodically – an update to the Biafra separatist note is expected shortly. We publish them since our decisions can be appealed in the immigration courts, which are public, so it is clearer and fairer for all involved (applicants, their Lawyers, Judges, Stakeholders such as the UNHCR) to know what our position and evidence base is.
“All asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.”
Meanwhile, prominent Igbo Groups under the auspices of World Igbo Youth Congress and South-East Women Professionals, have supported the UK’s offer of asylum for persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members.
The President-General, World Igbo Youth Congress, Chief Alex Okemiri and the President, South-East Women Professionals, Dr. Helen Ogbonnaya, stated this in separate telephone interviews in Abakaliki, on Wednesday.
Okemiri stated: “Most youths are revolting against the faulty foundation of Nigeria. The Federal Government should address the issues that brought up these agitations, especially through respecting the principles of federal character, which has been abused.
“The declaration of the UK Visa for IPOB and MASSOB members has contradicted the falsehoods being presented by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the international community, about Biafra agitators.
“World Igbo Youth Congress urges IPOB and MASSOB members to take the opportunity offered by UK Embassy to save their lives; they should flee from persecution and continue the peaceful, but non violent agitations.
“The UK Visa and Immigration’s procedure had ended the wrong motion labelled wrongly against these secessionist groups, as terrorist organisations.”
Corroborating the WIYC, the President of SWP, Ogbonnaya, stressed the asylum granted to the groups’ members was a practical step at showing that persecution against self-determination was sheer violation of human rights in Nigeria.
Ogbonnaya said: “We, the South-East Women Professionals describe the asylum to IPOB and MASSOB by the UK government, as practical steps to ensure that the persecution meted out towards self-determination is a gross violation of human rights.
“The Federal Government should deploy carrot and stick policy of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to end the secessionist agitation in the South-East.
“South-East Women Professionals call on Buhari’s government to embrace dialogue with Biafra agitators.”