By Uzoma Ahamefule
The endless throbbing and sorrowing of Nigerians may only be compared to the tribulation days of Job with open sores on a gummy and painful mat. The open wounds of Nigerian communities in Austria are stinky, the Nigerian communities in Vienna are boiling, they are weeping and wailing but yet their cries are like the lonely voice of John the Baptist in the wilderness without anybody to turn to. How long shall we continue to live in a state of uncertainty with the hope that one day it will be better? But when one deeply scrutinises the arena and goes extremely into the hope one has doubts if there is really hope in this hope as our leaders continually handle us and our issues like masters and slaves.
The Nigerian Ambassador to Austria Her Excellency, Maria Oyeyinka Laose recently returned from Nigeria where she had led an Austrian high delegation and had signed a treaty that any black person whose identity in Austria is in doubt would be deported to Nigeria . This is ridiculous and sounds unreal but it is painfully a reality. As reported, this treaty was unfortunately supervised by the Foreign Affairs Minister Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru prompting Nigerians in Austria to ask the question; whose table do they now lay their shameful and unbelievable complaint to since the Ambassador and the Foreign Affairs Minister whose portfolios lie the hope of redress in the case of any foreign molestation have sold them out like slaves? Therefore, Nigerian communities in Austria are calling on the President and Commander in Chief of Armed Forces Federal Republic of Nigeria , His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and members of the National Assembly both upper and lower houses to please rush to their aid.
According to the treaty signed between the two countries as reported by Guardian newspaper “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 Affairs Minister Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru.
“The agreement exposes these persons who are without 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).”
Mr President Sir, members of the National Assembly/House of Reps and fellow Nigerians, please of whose interest is this treaty trying to serve in the way it was reported? What is the gain of the entity called Nigeria in this kind of treaty if not abuses, humiliations, pains and sorrows of her less privileged citizens? Mr. President Sir, are you aware of this kind of embarrassing bilateral agreement that only tramples on the rights of those your subordinates and exposes them helplessly to ill-treatment and disgrace with impunity?
The report went further to say that “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 readmission, 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.” This is an insult to the collective sensibilities of the people. So NAPTIP can suddenly take care of about 1,000 Nigerians when millions of Nigerians have been finding it extremely difficult to feed three times in a day and Austrian companies in Nigeria also out of the moon have reserved training opportunities also for these 1,000 expected deportees? Is this not interesting?
One thing we must know is that most of the planned to be deported people have worked in this country for years under hard conditions and risky environments. During winter periods they are usually the people engaged in clearing snows on the streets in the night under minus 10 up to minus 30 degrees. They are usually the people that carry blocks and cements on their heads from the down floor up to the 15th floor or even more of a storey building in the name of labourers just to live legitimate lives etc. But now that some of them seem to be getting qualified to apply for the citizenship of Austria , the Nigerian government should not be a conduit pipe at which the Austrian government wants to use to deny them the fruits of their labours.
Come to think of it, how can one deport a black person whose identity is in doubt to Nigeria ? Is Nigeria a dumping ground for unwanted black people? Anyway, I am not too surprised because the ambassador does not care so much hence most people deported under her recently have suffered too much neglect from her office and her officers. One of the worst cases of such happened during the last deportation on May 23 2012 where a father of 2 ½ year old son was arrested from his apartment in the morning around 10 am and the next day he was boarded the 10pm flight to Nigeria without the ambassador or any of her officers getting in contact with him to find out his own side of the story and importantly to know if he was actually a Nigerian before they issued a warrant to deport him to Nigeria.
Please Her Excellency Maria Oyeyinka Laose, it is morally wrong before God and men to accept every official thing presented to you by your host country and without any iota of feelings and obligations to your duty you sit on your comfortable rolling chair and sign the deportation of people on flimsy excuses. Please Her Excellency Madam, when did the number of friends one has and the countries they come from or the language one speaks become a standard yard stick of knowing where one comes from? There are so many Igbos in Lagos State today that speak perfect Yoruba but cannot even speak Igbo. Does that make them Yorubas?
Please Her Excellency Madam, did you also know that the deportee described above has got a child before you deported him? And if you know, as a mother, did you think about the psychological trauma that child will go through all the rest of his life because you used your official position to deny him the right to grow up with fatherly care, knowing the environment we are in? Did you also know that he was in a situation that was not permissible under law to issue his deportation warrant? How would you feel if you were forcefully separated from your own family? As much as I distinguish the fact that you are not the Austrian authority that decides whom to allow in their country, but can you beat your chest to say that you did your work satisfactorily before his deportation? Deportation is a thing that is in every country, therefore, most of us are not saying that Austria should not deport any individual it considers unwanted but let it be done within the ambits of the law especially by recognising and also respecting the rights of the asylum seekers according to the Geneva Convention. Remember, WHO recognises that cigarette smoking is very dangerous to the health but yet it has not banned outright use of them because it has considered the social implication to be more severe if banned as when in circulation, thus every producing company is compelled only to inscribe on their packets that “cigarette smoking is very dangerous to your health”. Having this at the back of my mind, I think that it is extremely harmful to deport people that have got children based on unsubstantiated reasons or merely that their asylum processes were over or that they had had drug cases 3,4,5, or 6 years back. If they were not deported at that time they had committed such crimes why must they be deported now that they have stopped such disgusting deals and have started to raise families?
Did Nigerian representatives think about the implications of this action? Because various Nigerian agencies claimed that they are fighting armed robbery, kidnapping, Boko Haram and other social vices but they tend to forget that most of the deportees are potential fraudsters (419), Boko Harams, armed robbers and kidnappers etc.
Honourable Affairs Minister Sir, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru and the Nigerian ambassador to Austria Her Excellency Ambassador Maria Oyeyinka Laose, if there is an agreement to deport any black person whose identity of origin is questionable to Nigeria, why cannot be there also a bilateral agreement between Austria and Nigeria that recognises Nigerian school certificates which allows Nigerian skilled men and women to work at their different qualified fields, unlike what is obtainable now where most of them have been rejected as plate washers? I do not know Honourable Minister Sir, whether the ambassador also informed you that even when she as the president of Nigeria in Austria puts a stamp on any document from Nigeria officially authenticating such document as original and a valid document that the Austria authority still does not honour such document until such document is sent back to their embassy in Nigeria for confirmation? And in most cases Nigerians are forced to pay over #130,000 before such document can be approved by their embassy. This outrageous amount also excludes transportation money for the submission of the document in Abuja that varies depending whether one is coming from Sokoto, Aba or Lagos and also hotel accommodation if one has got nobody in Abuja . Sadly, one has to go through the frustration process of going back to Abuja again to collect the document after their so-called investigation.
Nigerian communities in Austria knowing that all these humiliating treatments exist are pained to see this kind of agreement that refused to address these issues but rather perpetuate their pains more. The affected individuals are into hiding and restless, the communities are boiling as they gather and discuss on how to use every possible means permitted by law to protest this agreement that has infringed on their fundamental human rights.
A concerned patriotic citizen writes from Vienna , Austria