The United Kingdom has barred the Indigenous People of Biafra, the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra and other Biafran groups from benefitting from its asylum programme.
In a May 2022 update of its asylum policy, the UK government excluded members of the groups from seeking refuge in England.
The UK Visas and Immigration had in April 2021 said that it was planning to grant asylum to persecuted members of IPOB members whose founder, Nnamdi Kanu, was operating from London before his arrest in Kenya last year as part of its refugee policy published at the time.
The policy, at the time, was for asylum to be granted to “persecuted” members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)”.
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”.
If the person can prove persecution, then the IPOB member or supporter could be granted asylum.
However, in the latest update published on its website on May 3, titled, ‘Country policy and information note: Separatist groups in the South-East, Nigeria,’ the UKVI said, “IPOB had been proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government and that members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network – have reportedly committed human rights violations.”
The UK, therefore, said that persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.
“If a person has been involved with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or uses violence to achieve its aims, decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable.
“Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum. If the person is excluded from the Refugee Convention, they will also be excluded from a grant of humanitarian protection.”
The policy directed that decision-makers must also check if there has been a previous application for a UK visa or another form of leave, noting that asylum applications matched to visas should be investigated before the asylum interview.
According to the British government, establishing a convention reason is not sufficient to be recognised as a refugee.
“The question is whether the particular person has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their actual or imputed convention reason,” it added.
For an asylum application to succeed, it said the decision-makers must consider each case on its facts, taking into account the legal status, profile, size, and organisation of the group/organisation to which the person belongs and its activities; whether a person in the UK would wish to continue their activism if returned to Nigeria (if not, why not) and whether the group/organisation has a presence in Nigeria as well as outside of the country and any evidence that it is being monitored by the government.