The British Government has given reasons for extending a special consideration for asylum to the persecuted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
UK says it has a duty to examine all asylum and human rights claims from Nigerian nationals on their individual merits in accordance with its international obligations.
The British High Commission made this known on Wednesday, in response to the Federal Government’s allegations that the UK’s asylum offer for persecuted members of IPOB and MASSOB undermined Nigeria’s security.
Recall that the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) had released new guidelines to its decision-makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications by members of “Biafran secessionist” groups.
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.
“Those fleeing prosecution or punishment for a criminal offence are not normally refugees. Prosecution may, however, amount to persecution if it involves victimisation in its application by the authorities”, the guidelines stated.
But the Federal Government in a swift response to the immigration guidelines, described them as support for terrorism.
THEWILL reported that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said that the decision of the UK to grant asylum to “persecuted” members of IPOB and MASSOB was disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation. He further accused the UK government of 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 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.”