At a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conference in Abuja, Abika Dabiri-Erewa—the senior special assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on diaspora and foreign affairs—warned that Germany will likely deport between twenty-five and thirty thousand Nigerian asylum seekers. She said many claims for asylum were spurious: “some who are from the East and West are saying they are running away from Boko Haram while others say they are gays and were having challenges expressing themselves in Nigeria.” She said the Nigerian foreign ministry is working with German authorities “to see how the entire process [of deportation] can be made easier.” She did not indicate when deportations would begin. The announcement from Dabiri-Erewa comes on the heels of a meeting between a German envoy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama last month to discuss Nigerian migrants in Germany.
Resettling Nigerians deported from Europe will be challenging for Nigerian authorities, hence the call for Nigerians not to participate in “irregular” migration. However, rather than convincing would-be migrants to stay put, European efforts to reduce migrant flows are simply forcing them elsewhere. At the same conference, another Nigerian official lamented that Nigerians are now migrating to “unpopular” countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Mali.
Nigeria’s large population, tradition of migration, and stagnant economy suggest significant emigration will continue. But a successful asylum applicant must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, social class, and other legally defined criteria. It will therefore be difficult for most Nigerians to obtain asylum in European countries. Even so, Dabiri-Erewa’s suggestion that “gays” are unqualified to seek asylum in Europe is ironic; Nigeria’s deep-seated homophobia can expose gay Nigerians to persecution that may in fact qualify them for asylum.