Nigeria’s president has warned his fellow citizens to stop trying to make asylum claims in Britain, saying that their reputation for criminality has made it hard for them to be “accepted” abroad.
Muhammadu Buhari, the tough ex-general elected last year, said those who had joined the migrant exodus to Europe were doing so purely for economic reasons rather than because they were in danger.
He added that because of the number of Nigerians imprisoned for law-breaking in Britain and elsewhere, they were also unlikely to get much sympathy.
“We have an image problem abroad and we are on our way to salvage that”
“Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but they have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking,” he told The Telegraph.
“I don’t think Nigerians have anybody to blame. They can remain at home, where their services are required to rebuild the country.”
Mr Buhari’s remarks may upset refugees’ rights groups, who claim that the vast majority of asylum cases lodged by Nigerians are genuine. In recent years, many have said they are fleeing Boko Haram, the Islamist group that Mr Buhari’s army is now struggling to stamp out in northern Nigeria.
However, only around one in ten of the 13,000 asylum claims lodged by Nigerians in Britain in the last 15 years have been accepted.
And the claims of persecution appear to cut no ice at all with Mr Buhari, a headmasterly figure who famously waged a “war on indiscipline” on his fellow Nigerians while serving as the country’s military ruler in the 1980s.
Back then, Nigerians could be whipped if they did not stand in line at bus queues, while lazy civil servants were forced to do frog jumps in the office if they arrived for work late.
While he has not re-introduced such measures as a civilian ruler, he makes it clear that a minority of his countrymen could still do with improving their behaviour. “We have an image problem abroad and we are on our way to salvage that,” he said.