Refugees and migrants in Nigeria: Always Eye to Eye

Nigeria was the first country to sign a migration and mobility treaty with the EU. The EU Delegation is working intensely to negotiate a readmission agreement, but Nigeria is expecting compensation.

A camp for internally displace people in Maiduguri, Nigeria Foto: reuters

ABUJA taz | Worldwide, the Diaspora comprises at least 20 million Nigerians who constitute a major economical factor. The Central Bank of Nigeria reports that in 2015 about 21 billion dollars were transferred into the country, and the tendency is rising. In this context, nearly 24,000 Nigerians who irregularly crossed European borders could be considered negligible.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is considered a key country in regards of the new EU policy towards Africa. In recent times, the EU has made more agreements with Nigeria than with any other country in Africa, mainly concerning migration and security.

The refugee problem is something entirely different. Since the beginning of the conflicts with the islamist militia Boku Haram in 2009 which broke out in the north-east of the country, more than 20,000 people have been killed, numerous women and girls have been abducted and children have been recruited as suicide attackers. Up to 2,5 million people had to leave their homes, 2,2 million of them are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and 187,126 sought refuge in Cameroon, Chad or Niger.

According to the figures of UNHCR, in the north-eastern states Adamawa, Borno, Gombe and Yobe, up to 15 million people are directly affected and in need of humanitarian aid. Half of them are children. In February UNHCR announced that only 9 percent of the expenses required for IDPs in Nigeria are covered. IDPs have lost everything and no money to pay for their migration to Europe.

Money for conflict resolution

To control migration from western Africa to Europe, in 2006, the so-called “Rabat-Process“ was initiated. This process links development aid to migration and the repatriation of irregular migrants has become a key aspect of cooperation. In December 2015, the migration summit in Valetta primarily resulted in creating with significant financial means the “EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa“ which was pragmatically filled with 1,88 billion dollars from already existing development aid resources.

While in western Africa, most of the funds are dedicated to employment projects, in Nigeria, peace work and conflict resolution are financed. 52 million euros are provided for peace projects in the north-east of Nigeria where Boko Haram strikes terror. Previous to the Valetta Summit, the EU development aid programme for Nigeria for the period 2014-2020 totalled 520 million Euros, of which 90 million were appraised for “good governance“, peace and stability; New, since Valetta, has been only the focus on the causes for flight and migration. The funds provided for health, food and sustainable energy have not changed.

Desperately seeking success

In the middle of October 2016, 15 delegates from Brussels travelled to Nigeria’s capital Abuja. “A flutter as if they wanted to keep millions of migrants out of Europe“, mocks a high-level representative of an international NGO who was taking part in the negotiations. “It was all about the money: How much for repatriation? What packages do we have to draw up?“

The visit of the EU delegation was also dedicated to start negotiations for a European-Nigerian readmission agreement. It is still in the dark what Nigeria will receive for the deal. Hundreds of millions of EU funds are invested in other key-countries like Ethiopia, Sudan or Eritrea.

The German Embassy in Abuja wants to keep the draft of the agreement covered. Godwin Morka, Chief Research Officer of NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons) says that the treaty will facilitate their work.

The protection of the victims of human trafficking is considered to be NAPTIP’s main concern: The memorandum regulates mutual legal assistance and “the issue of the identification of individuals“. It also determines the “exchange of information (particularly concerning irregular migration), protection of human rights, safe readmission, rehabilitation and international protection of victims, guaranteed from both sides.“ The EU delegation and the Nigerian partners straightway agreed on a “identification mission“ in several EU countries – at least, the EU “progress report“ states all that.

Partners in Energy Policy

Are these steps undermining the freedom that ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which is based on the EU model, has introduced? “However, walls cannot be erected“, says Director Morka from NAPTIP. “We have to be professional and smart to catch the criminals.“ The agency counts on hints from the public, technology and investigative activities. Until 2015, NAPTIP was only responsible for human traffickers. Since then, due to the new legislation against human trafficking, also the ones who assist irregular border crossing have been targeted/prosecuted.

Many EU papers state that Nigeria’s economic power and oil and gas production are the reasons for the tight relations between the EU and Nigeria; and the new EU foreign and security strategy of March 2016 promotes energy security, next to terrorism and climate change, to a main issue. European energy security shall be reached through supply diversification.

Therefore, Nigeria’s oil resources are strategically important for Europe and the strategic considerations do not only include the actual drillings in the Niger Delta, but also the potential deposits under Lake Chad – the region is Boku Haram’s stronghold – and the planned Trans-Sharan oil and gas pipeline from Nigeria through Niger and Algeria to Spain. Already in 2002, first agreements with Algeria have been concluded. In December 2016, during a visit of King Mohammed, Nigeria’s President signed an agreement that also connects Morocco to the pipeline. Nigeria’s oil pipelines have been repeatedly destroyed in the past. Meanwhile, the militias in the Niger Delta together with Nigerian business leaders have built up a parallel market where stolen oil is dealt by whole shiploads.

Bilateral Contracts with Half of Europe

Vice versa Nigeria is not only interested in trade and sales of raw materials, but also in receiving knowhow, technology and support for building up its own economy. But the EU Economic Partnership Agreement neither complies with these needs nor does the internal EU paper that identifies the interests associated with a prospective repatriation agreement mention these topics. And while the repatriation of billions of dollars that were stolen from politicians and deposited on European accounts is on top of the Nigerian agenda, the internal EU paper ranks this issue last.

After 2006, when the Rabat Process was initiated with the attempt to link migration and development and to achieve readmission possibilities for irregular migrants, Nigeria hastily signed expulsion agreements: Bilateral agreements with Italy (2011), Great Britain (2004 and 2016), Spain (2001) about the readmission of rejected migrants and last, but not least, the CAMM (Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility) in 2015, which constitutes the first contract of this kind in sub-Saharan Africa. This Community programme attempts to promote legal migration and to open EU-programmes for Nigerians and at the same time fosters readmission and border controls.

Cooperation with Frontex has already been stipulated in 2012 and today Nigeria is a member of the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community. The contract also comprises that Nigeria is taking part in joint border controls and joint readmission proceedings – an arrangement is certainly owed to the massively courted NAPTIP, Nigeria’s national authority for human trafficking, which cooperates with the EU, IOM (International Organization for Migration), Frontex, Interpol and Europol, UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and with national security forces.

Eventual NAPTIP is a paramilitary prosecution authority that coordinates the activities of the secret service and the police concerning human trafficking and since 2015 also human smuggling. NAPTIP itself has concluded several bilateral cooperation contracts with European security authorities (Spain, UK, Netherlands). Frontex, on the other side, has at least signed a contract with NAPTIP and another one with NIS (National Immigration Service), Nigeria’s immigration authority. Both authorities are subordinated to the Ministry of Interior. However, given that international treaties are in the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Frontex treaty with the migration authority stresses that it is not an internationally approved document.

The numerous agreements and letters of intent evoke the impression of a model pupil in European migration control lessons. Anyways, as so often in Nigeria, not laws and policies are lacking, but implementing, executing and administering funds with integrity fails. Frequently only the financial benefit is decisive for a contract to be fulfilled.

In addition to border control and peace and reconstruction measures in the areas controlled by Boko Haram, Nigeria needs substantial support for its security and defence forces. The Nigerian army is run-down from the fight against Boko Haram and the accoutrement is depleted. Due to human rights violations of the army, the USA does not supply weapons or military technology. The so-called Leahy Law strongly controls arms exports. The ruthless operations of the Nigerian army not only against Boko Haram, but also against the Biafra separatists in the east, who are claiming their own state, like they did in the 1960s, and against the Shiite minority in the north-west, brought about very critical reports from the international human rights organisation Amnesty International and an investigation of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

An internal EU paper explores the issues of the EU and Nigeria and how a readmission agreement can be negotiated. Consequently, the long list of infrastructural measures, training programmes and activities against human trafficking, including a simplified issuance of visas for selected groups of people, does not mention to support the military or other security forces. Nevertheless, a common report of the German Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office states this purpose. The report, of 17 May 2016, addressed to the Members of the German Parliament comprises a “list of efforts“ which also includes the “acquisition of ground radar systems“ to fight Boko Haram.

Translation: Natascha Weiss

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