UK Government strikes deal with Nigeria to speed up removals of Nigerian nationals from the UK

By Amer Zaman

on September 13, 2022

Read Time: 7 Minutes

On 30th June 2022, the UK Home Office announced that it had reached a “major new agreement” with Nigeria that would “see both countries work together to tackle shared migration issues.”

The department said that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with Nigeria would also “promote our shared bilateral economic interests”. It is understood to be a different type of deal to the controversial agreement announced between the UK and Rwanda in April.

So, what are the essential details of the UK and Nigeria’s new partnership, and what issues arise from the plans for migrants between the two countries?  

What has the Home Office said about its “new deal with Nigeria”?

The Home Office has said that the new agreement reached by the UK and Nigeria would see the two countries “do more together to support legal migration, tackle illegal migration and speed up the removal of foreign criminals.”

According to the department, “the commitment is already delivering”, as it said that a chartered flight on 30th June had seen the removal of 13 Nigerian nationals “with no right to be in the UK”. The news release added that following the flight’s departure from Nigeria, it flew to Ghana to return eight Ghanian nationals with no right to be in the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel commented: “It is an important development that the UK and Nigeria have signed an agreement to cooperate on migration issues, to tackle illegal migration and the significant threat it poses to both nations.

“The deal will mean that operational teams in both countries will share their expertise to take the fight to criminal people smugglers who are responsible for a wider range of criminality and put profit before people while undermining the security of our two countries. This landmark agreement will increase the deportation of dangerous foreign criminals to make our streets and country safer.”

What is the UK New Plan for Immigration?

In her announcement of the UK-Nigeria deal, Home Secretary Priti Patel described the agreement as “our New Plan for Immigration being put into action.” But what is the “New Plan for Immigration”?

The short answer is that it is the name given for a previously announced policy and set of reforms aimed towards fulfilling three major objectives, as set out by Ms Patel:

  • Increasing the “fairness and efficacy of our system so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum
  • Deterring “illegal entry into the UK, thereby breaking the business model of people smuggling networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger”
  • Removing “more easily from the UK those with no right to be here”

Ms Patel added, in a statement outlining the policy: “To deliver against these objectives our New Plan for Immigration will make big changes, building a new system that is fair but firm.”

What are the stated aims of the UK-Nigerian MoU?

In its news story outlining the agreement, the Home Office said that the MoU put in place between the UK and Nigeria was geared towards achieving the following objectives:

  • Promoting the economic activities of citizens in both countries
  • Developing improved working relationships and expertise on tackling illegal migration
  • Accelerating the removal of foreign national offenders (FNOs) from the UK to Nigeria, as well from Nigeria to the UK
  • The two countries working together to “support those who choose to come to each country legally and safely”

With regard to the aim of speeding up the removal of FNOs, the Home Office said that through the agreement, emergency travel certificates or temporary passports would be issued to individuals being returned within five working days of receipt of their passport or biometric information.

How many foreign national offenders have recently been removed from the UK?

In its news story confirming the UK-Nigeria agreement, the Home Office said that the recent returns flight had removed eight FNOs and five immigration offenders to Nigeria, as well as three FNOs and five immigration offenders to Ghana.

The UK Government has said that more than 10,000 people were deported from the UK between January 2019 and May 2022. However, it has also said that as of 2020, there were 10,000 FNOs who had been released back into the community because they could not be returned to their country of origin.

The Government said that in 2019, 73% of people who had been detained within the UK following immigration offences had raised new claims, legal challenges, or issues. It said that in 94% of cases, this led to the given individuals being released from detention, instead of being removed from the UK.

Human rights and safety concerns raised in relation to recent Home Office deportations  

Aside from the aforementioned information provided about the end-of-June UK Government-chartered flight, a recent Forbes report said it was “unclear why exactly the people on the plane were deported”.

A deportation order is typically made in cases where a foreign national receives a criminal conviction and is sentenced to a minimum of 12 months. This can occur as a result of crimes of varying levels of seriousness, including shoplifting and drink driving.

The Home Office said that the 11 FNOs had combined prison sentences of more than 64 years.

However, The Guardian reported several days before the flight that among those facing deportation on the plane were “mothers and grandmothers, some of whom have lived in the UK for decades”.

The newspaper reported that some of those set to be on the flight were suffering from severe mental health problems and were on anti-psychotic medication.

The report went on to cite human rights campaigners as saying there were various safety concerns in relation to those slated to be on the flight, including religious persecution, modern slavery, rights to family life, and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Guardian cited the example of a 48-year-old gay man, Adeniyi Raji, who the newspaper said was being threatened with removal to Nigeria for the second time.

Mr Raji was quoted as saying by the newspaper: “I’m in the UK because I need protection. If I’m returned to Nigeria, they will kill me.”

The UK Government’s own foreign travel advice for Nigeria states that “homosexuality is generally viewed as unacceptable in Nigeria” – with “lengthy prison sentences” able to be imposed on those in same-sex relationships. Despite this, Pink News reported that Mr Raji was subsequently deported on the charter flight from Birmingham Airport to Lagos, Nigeria.

The Guardian also referenced the case of a 40-year-old mother of three British children, who had previously been sentenced under the Mental Health Act. She travelled to the UK on a false passport in 2009, having been persecuted in Nigeria for being a Christian in a majority Muslim area.

Her children were reportedly taken away from her after she became seriously mentally ill, with the Home Office subsequently evicting her on the grounds that her children were no longer living with her.

She was quoted as saying to The Guardian from Colnbrook detention centre, close to Heathrow: “How can the Home Office separate me from my children? I’m not going to let it happen. If they force me to go, I will die. I will kill myself. I escaped Nigeria to save my life.”

Can a Nigerian get a UK visa?  

If you are a Nigerian national with an interest in travelling to and entering the UK, you can expect to first need to secure a visa via the UK authorities.

That will generally mean a requirement to submit a UK visa application, and to receive written confirmation that the Home Office has accepted your visa application, prior to travelling. However, some business travellers might be entitled to request a visa once they have already arrived in the UK.

There are various UK visa routes of potential relevance if you are a Nigerian national, depending on such factors as your ability to meet the eligibility requirements, and your reasons for wishing to enter the UK.

These visa categories include the likes of:

For further advice and information on the options that may be open to you for relocating from Nigeria to the UK, please call the Cranbrook Legal team now on 0208 215 0053.

Here at Cranbrook Legal in central London, our professional and friendly immigration lawyers are skilled and experienced in handling an extremely wide range of circumstances and situations, including those in relation to immigration between Nigeria and the UK.

We are experienced in suitably and efficiently handling what might be quite specialised and sensitive immigration matters, and can provide highly informed advice tailored to your situation. Please feel free to enquire to us today and arrange a free consultation with our team.

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