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- The UK government prohibited members of the group from claiming asylum in England in a May 2022 amendment to its asylum policy.
- At the time, the policy was to offer sanctuary to members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) who had been “persecuted”.
- If the individual can establish persecution, the IPOB member or supporter may be awarded refuge.
The United Kingdom’s government reversed course on its treatment of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), acknowledging Nigeria’s designation of the group as a terrorist organisation.
The UK government prohibited members of the group from claiming asylum in England in a May 2022 amendment to its asylum policy.
In April 2021, the UK announced its intention to provide sanctuary to persecuted members of the separatist organisation, as part of its then-current refugee policy.
At the time, the policy was to offer sanctuary to members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) who had been “persecuted”.
The UKVI, a section of the Home Office, instructed its decision-makers to evaluate whether an individual “who actively and openly supports IPOB” is “likely to face arrest and custody, as well as ill-treatment that amounts to persecution.”
If the individual can establish persecution, the IPOB member or supporter may be awarded refuge.
The UK government removed the policy notes a few days after they were published in response to concerns from the Nigerian government.
Shauntv obtained a copy of an amended asylum policy in July 2021, which made no mention of IPOB but placed a greater emphasis on Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram’s onslaught.
At the time, the UK stated that it would provide protection to “women, LGBTI individuals, and non-indigenous people” who “may experience further discrimination that prevents them from accessing effective protection.”
Nigerians can now seek asylum in the UK if they fear “persecution and/or significant harm from members of Boko Haram as a result of” their “real or perceived opposition to the group,” according to the UK government.
UKVI, in a May 2022 policy update , identified IPOB as a terrorist organisation that should be banned from its asylum programme due to claimed links to south-east Asian violence.
“The Nigerian government has designated IPOB as a terrorist organisation, and members of the organisation and its paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network (established in December 2020), have allegedly perpetrated human rights violations in Nigeria,” UKVI stated in its policy notes.
“MASSOB has been banned, but is not a proscribed terrorist organisation in Nigeria,” it stated. It has also been alleged to have been involved in violent battles with authorities”.
UKVI then advised its decision-makers that “if an individual has been associated with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB, or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or employs violence to achieve its objectives, decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the Refugee Convention’s exclusion clauses apply.”
“Asylum should not be provided to those who perpetrate human rights breaches,” the UK added.
According to the policy brief, everyone who is excluded in this manner is also “excluded from receiving humanitarian assistance.”
Additionally, UKVI warned that “decision makers must continue to assess all claims on an individual basis, taking into consideration the unique facts of each case.”
Since the last update in July 2021, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB and a British citizen, has been detained by the Nigerian government on treason-related charges.
The group stated in their 2022 new year message that the Nigerian national anthem will no longer be sung in southeast Nigerian schools.