Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which has been branded as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), who have been persecuted by the UK government, will reportedly be granted asylum.
According to TheCable, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), a division of the Home Office, directed its decision-makers to consider whether an individual “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention, and ill-treatment that is likely to lead to persecution” in the recently released “Country Policy and Information Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups.”
Biafra is a region in Nigeria’s southeast that includes the states of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Anambra. The region is primarily populated by Igbo (Ibo) people, one of Nigeria’s three largest ethnic groups.”
The following factors should be considered by decision-makers:
“Must also consider whether the actions of the [Nigerian] government are acts of prosecution rather than persecution. Refugees are not usually those fleeing prosecution or punishment for a criminal offense. Prosecution, on the other hand, may amount to persecution if the authorities use victimization in their application.
“Consider each case on its facts to evaluate if the person is likely to be of interest to the [Nigerian] government and whether this is for the legitimate grounds of prosecution which is directly proportional and non-discriminatory”.
Persecution, according to the UKVI, is “if it is the vehicle or excuse for or if only certain groups are prosecuted for a specific offence and the consequences of that discrimination are sufficiently severe.” Persecution can also include cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment (including punishment that is out of all proportion to the crime committed).
While the onus is on the applicants to demonstrate that they will be “at risk of persecution or serious harm” in Nigeria, the publication reported that the decision-makers are to consider each case on its facts, taking into account:
- profile, size, and organization of the group/organization to which the person belongs and its activities
- whether a person in the UK would wish to continue their activism if returned to Nigeria (if not, why not)
- whether the group/organization has a presence in Nigeria as well as outside of the country and any evidence that it is being monitored by the government
- person’s profile and political activities (including those online) and relevant documentary or other evidence
- profile and activities of family members
- past treatment.
Acknowledging that the Nigerian government has a responsibility to maintain law and order, “to prevent and protect the public against acts of violence”, the communique added that when supporters or members of MASSOB or IPOB “have incited or used violence to disrupt public order, the government may have legitimate grounds to arrest and prosecute those people”.
It also noted that “where the government has arrested and detained persons who, for example, peacefully participate in demonstrations and has then charged them with treason or the person is subjected to periods of detention in degrading or inhuman conditions, such treatment is unlikely to be fair or proportionate, and is likely to amount to persecution.”
The UK, which is a signatory to several human rights and refugee conventions, believes Biafran secessionist agitations are covered by one or more of the following policies:
- A person is reasonably likely to face a real risk of persecution or serious harm
- The general humanitarian situation is so severe as to breach Article 15(b) of European Council Directive 2004/83/EC (the Qualification Directive)/Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights as transposed in paragraph 339C and 339CA(iii) of the Immigration Rules
- The security situation presents a real risk to a civilian’s life or person such that it would breach Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive as transposed in paragraph 339C and 339CA(iv) of the Immigration Rules
- A person is able to obtain protection from the state (or quasi state bodies)
- A person is reasonably able to relocate within a country or territory
- A claim is likely to justify granting asylum, humanitarian protection or other form of leave, and
- If a claim is refused, it is likely or unlikely to be certifiable as ‘clearly unfounded’ under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
Decision-makers are directly to still consider all claims on an individual basis, taking into account each case’s specific facts. The Nigerian government is reportedly yet to react to this.