Austria may deport 1,000 asylum seekers to Nigeria
By Oghogho Obayuwana
ABOUT 1,000 Nigerian asylum seekers in Austria may be deported following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by Nigeria and Austria.
The agreement was signed last week in Abuja by Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Nigerian Foreign Minister Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru .
The agreement 'exposes' these persons who are without a clear proof of Nigerian citizenship, most of them living in Austria for many years and well integrated (but not accepted as refugees according to the Geneva convention).
The two countries pledged cooperation in security matters, a joint tackling of terrorism and training of security personnel.
Besides, the Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria Dr Stefan Scholz extolled the Sultan of Sokoto SaÃ¡d Abubakar 111 for his outstanding work in interfaith cooperation and religious tolerance in Nigeria.
The Guardian learnt that although most asylum seekers of Nigerian extraction are already considered economic refugees by the Austrian authorities to the chagrin of the affected citizens, the fear is rife that should the religious, ethnic and social situation in Nigeria held to be tense deepens , Europe might be faced with an even larger number of refugees from Nigeria.
In the aftermath of his visit to Nigeria (the first by any Austrian high government official in the 50 years of bilateral relations between the two countries), Spindelegger has been quoted by foreign news agencies including the Austrian Press Agency and Austrian newspapers as saying that the Abuja agreement shall help to reduce the 'fear' of the readmitted, because the Nigerian government through the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) has pledged to look after them (deported asylum seekers) while Austrian companies operating in Nigeria have shown their readiness to offer training (resettlement) programmes in this regard.
Besides, the signing of the readmission agreement opens a floodgate to handle one thousand older but open cases of refused asylum seekers in Austria from Nigeria. Before the agreement, the Federal Government had not been obliged to take deported refugees back even though last year, of the 14, 416 requests for asylum, 414 were from Nigeria.
Referring to the principles of the UN convention on the status of refugees (July 1951) and the protocol relating to the status of refugees (January 1967) and also the principles and provisions of the UN convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols thereto (December 2000), part of the Abuja agreement obtained by The Guardian, stated thus: "Each contracting party shall admit to its own territory, at the request of the other contracting party, any person who is not or is no longer eligible to enter or to reside in the territory of the requesting contracting party, when it has been shown in accordance with Article 111 or is shown through the identification procedure outlined in Article 1V, that holds a valid internationally accepted travel document according to Article 111... The same may apply to persons who acquired a travel document by the contracting party."
The preamble to the agreement, however, stated clearly that the treaty was being made based on the friendly relations between the two states and people willing to facilitate the repatriation of citizens of one contracting party irregularly residing in the territory of the other contracting party as well as their rehabilitation and to treat such persons in a manner which would dignify and guarantee their human rights and fundamental freedoms.