Young Peace Journalists Stories: ‘Faking asylum to be in Europe: never an option’

The following piece was written by Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi, a member of the Young Peace Journalists of Pax Christi International (YPJ – PCI), and the World Catholic Association of Communication (SIGNIS). He holds a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Communication Studies, a doctoral student specializing in Peace and Development Communication Studies and a part-time lecturer at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) Nigeria. Currently, he is the blog writer and website content editor for Asante Africa Foundation and an emerging media leader with the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE).

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Few months ago, I was invited to attend a Television (TV) Seminar organized by the TV Desk, of the World Catholic Association of Communication (SIGNIS), in Dublin, Ireland, from 25-30 September, 2018. I had lots of doubt on how possible this can be, because I have to undergo the process of getting an Irish visa. Going by the stories making news on the denials of visa and strictness by European countries to issue visas to young people from Africa – Nigeria to be specific, as a result of influx of migrants into their continent, I was reluctant to give it a trial. But after some motivation from mentors, like Professor Walter Ihejirika, President of SIGNIS Africa, Professor. Joseph Faniran and Dr. Inaku Egere, of the Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC) in the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) and Dr. Godswill Agbagwa, the founder of the Centre for Social Awareness Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE) and good friends, I went ahead with the application for an Irish visa. After three weeks of my application, I received a parcel from the Irish embassy, without waste of time, I opened the parcel, behold, on the last page of my passport, was a ninety (90) days Irish visa.

With the visa having been granted to me, many more issues began springing up. Particular among those issues, were people advising me not to come back to Nigeria once I travel to Ireland. I totally understand why they want me to not come back. One will ask, are you coming back to a country that has no plans for the citizens’ development? Like every young Nigerian, who is still struggling to have a better life, I was confused. Even in my confusion, I was sure about one thing, following due process to achieve an aim, thus, I concluded that I will go to Ireland and come back.

When I got to Ireland, I still met people who tried their possible best to discourage me from going back to Nigeria. Popular among the suggestions I got from people, was to come up with a real bad story for asylum. They did gave me instances of stories I could take a hint from and fabricate mine. Particular among them was lying that I have issues with the government, also that I am wanted for sake of my stand against the government on issues about the self-determination of Biafra (a group of Nigerians in the south east, clamouring for independence). Others include, fabricating stories about being wanted for kill by boko haram terrorist group and killer herdsmen, for my stand against their activities in Nigeria. The extent of their suggestions and the opportunities these people suggested that I am going to enjoying, all in the bid to discourage me from going back, made me think at some point, that my decision to go back to Nigeria was not ‘right’.

On my way back to Nigeria, I encountered an embarrassing situation. To enjoy a little bit of the long layover (of Tukish airline) I am going to have at Istanbul, Turkey, I decided to apply for a Turkish visa, to allow me tour the city a little bit, before departure time of the flight to Nigeria. Having arrived at the passport control, I spent over thirty-five (35) minutes been scrutinised by five different Turkish immigration and police officers. At the end of the scrutiny and eventual issuing of the Turkish visa by officers at the point of entry, one of the officers who accompanied me out of the airport and to find my way around, apologised to me for the long delay. When I enquired to know why they had to delay me for so long, I was told that the scrutiny was all in the bid to confirm, if the Irish visa I had was authentic and to verify beyond all doubt, that I will not run away when I am issued the visa to enter Turkey. I was further hinted that this is because they were surprised that a young African from Nigeria (like myself), had an Irish visa, travelled to Ireland and came back way-long before the expiration of the visa. I guess they do not see much of that happening.

Still with all these persuasions to stay back, I was certain about the following, I had a laid out plan for myself and my future, which will include travelling for sake of improving and gaining academic, professional and practical experiences, relating to my field of endeavour, that is, the media, journalism and communication. Therefore, going to Europe or any other place with false intention, staying back after the expiration of the visa, and falsifying stories to seek asylum, were never on the plan and I do not intend for them to be on it. It took lots of personal convictions for me to arrive at the conclusion, to not fake an asylum and stay back in Ireland, especially, after meeting people who claim to have done same and are “enjoying themselves”. Really, enjoying you say! I take an exception to such notion of enjoyment, because it is one built on lies and deceit. I wonder if those of them who frame untrue tales to seek asylum, consider what the consequence will be like, if the truth about their deceit come to the open at some point in their lifetime and stay in such countries.

This article is in no way branding all who seek asylum to be fake, on the contrary, this is about my personal experience and personal opinions, on the extent I encountered direct and indirect pressures from some people, who tried to convince me to fake an asylum, so as to stay back in Europe, a trend that has become so popular for young migrants. I decided not to follow the popular opinions urging me not to come back to Nigeria, not because I have a great job back in Nigeria or that my country has great programmes and polices making life better for the citizens, but for sake of being sincere and trustworthy to myself and the organisations I am associated with, I decided to come back.

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