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 Minister Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru .
The agreement ‘exposes’ these persons who are without a 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).
The two countries pledged cooperation in security matters, a joint tackling of terrorism and training of security personnel.
Besides, the Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria Dr Stefan Scholz extolled the Sultan of Sokoto Saád Abubakar 111 for his outstanding work in interfaith cooperation and religious tolerance in Nigeria.
The Guardian learnt that although most asylum seekers of Nigerian extraction are already considered economic refugees by the Austrian authorities to the chagrin of the affected citizens, the fear is rife that should the religious, ethnic and social situation in Nigeria held to be tense deepens , Europe might be faced with an even larger number of refugees from Nigeria.
In the aftermath of his visit to Nigeria (the first by any Austrian high government official in the 50 years of bilateral relations between the two countries), 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 the readmitted, 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.
Besides, the signing of the readmission agreement opens a floodgate to handle one thousand older but open cases of refused asylum seekers in Austria from Nigeria. Before the agreement, the Federal Government had not been obliged to take deported refugees back even though last year, of the 14, 416 requests for asylum, 414 were from Nigeria.