Monday, October 17, 2011

500 Nigerians in UK prisons, says envoy

ABOUT 500 Nigerians are languishing in the United Kingdom, (UK)’s prisons for various offences ranging from immigration issues to criminal activities, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, has disclosed.
He further said the UK was no longer a safe haven where Nigerians could easily travel to and eke out a livelihood.
Speaking with journalists at the Nigerian carnival award dinner in London at the weekend, Tafida said that the existing number of prisoners was far less than what he inherited when he assumed office three years ago.
He said that well over 1,000 Nigerians were clamped in prisons as at the time he was appointed the High Commissioner, a development he said tainted the image of Nigeria in no small way.
He regretted that a lot of the nation’s citizens in the UK were surviving via illegal means like credit card fraud, Internet scams and immigration paper forgery.
He warned Nigerians wishing to  visit, study or settle in the UK to ensure they had genuine papers and confirmed businesses before travelling.
“They should make sure they have a source of livelihood. UK is no longer a safe haven. It’s easier to live in Nigeria without a job than live in UK without a job. So unless you have a job, a confirmed job, don’t come here. Number two, make sure your papers are complete and not forged. That is what gets a lot of Nigerians in trouble and some end up in prison,” he stated.
To deal with the problem, Tafida said the High Commission was talking with the British government on how to assist Nigerians working in the UK get necessary papers, where needed, to ensure they were not embarrassed or deported.
“We have opened our doors to anyone who needs assistance. We’ve also created a dialogue between us and the UK government. We’ve a UK/Nigeria forum pertaining to immigration, whereby those who are qualified to stay, even if they don’t have passports, we try to grant them, especially once we have evidence that the government is willing to grant them stay. This is ongoing and you can investigate to confirm,” he explained.
He also revealed that the commission had constantly been assisting Nigerian prisoners in the UK via various welfare packages.
He explained that opportunities had been offered those wishing to complete their jail terms in Nigeria to indicate this in writing.
“A lot of them agreed and we spoke with the UK authorities and they have been deported. This is ongoing and that is why you see regular flights of deportees from the UK,” he said.
On the challenges facing the commission, Tafida said funding was a major issue, calling on the government to come to its rescue.
“We need more resources. That’s why I thought you could have visited the mission to see what we have done in the last three years. Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to make the place look like a real mission of envy and Nigerians here have started appreciating it that they have a mission. They come there and there are processes to get what they want. And once they follow these processes, they don’t need to bribe anybody. Some Nigerians live here on fraud, 419 and all sorts. We don’t want that and we have advised them to stop in their own interest,” he stated.