The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has revised procedures for its policy makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications made by people haunted by Boko Haram insurgents and other terrorist groups in North-East Nigeria.
The newest review disclosed that UKVI is also willing to grant asylum to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBTI) persons or women who work or are in education — and other social groups at risk of attack by terrorists in the region.
According to TheCable, the UK, however, remained silent about asylum for members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
In April 2021, there was a report that the UK said it would grant asylum to “persecuted” members of IPOB, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian government, and MASSOB.
A few days later, following the report and subsequent criticisms from the Nigerian government, the UK pulled down the policy, stating that it was being reviewed.
In the most recent July 2021 review, UKVI updated its designation for insurgent groups in North-East Nigeria, clearly naming them “Islamist extremists” in the region.
The guidelines, now known as country policy and information note, added that Nigerians could claim asylum if they belong to a social group that is “not compliant with Boko Haram ideology”.
Examples include “women who work or are in education and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons.”
Boko Haram started as an insurgent group in North East Nigeria in 2009, but has since metamorphosed through numerous changes of control, belief and partnership.
One thing that seemed to have remained constant is the abduction of women and girls, attacks on schools and general opposition to western education.
The UK said “the groups have also forcibly recruited and abducted thousands of men, women and children, subjecting many to intimidation and abuse including sexual violence, forced marriage and using young girls, in particular, to carry person-borne IED’s/as suicide bombers”
UKVI, however, also recommends internal relocation for persons persecuted by Boko Haram in the North-East.
“Boko Haram continues to be able to operate in rural areas of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, and to be able to attack targets in rural and urban areas in the North East of the country,” the UKVI said.
“In areas outside of the North East where the threat is from Boko Haram, the authorities are generally able and willing to provide effective protection. Women, LGBTI persons and non-indigenes may face additional discrimination which prevents them from being able to access effective protection.
“As a result, the UK is willing to offer protection for such people if the risk of persecution is confirmed. The question to be addressed in each case is whether the particular person will face a real risk of persecution on account of their actual or imputed convention reason,” UKVI added.
While women and LGBTI persons are at a higher risk, UKVI added that decision makers “must, however, still consider all claims on an individual basis, taking into account each case’s specific facts.”