Most of the illegal immigrants were from other African countries.
No fewer than 16,738 illegal migrants were repatriated by the Nigeria Immigration Service in 2012, the Comptroller-General, of the Service, Rose Uzoma, has said.
Ms. Uzoma disclosed this while answering questions at a Forum of the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
“Actually we repatriated 16, 738 illegal immigrants, mainly of ECOWAS sub-region and let me make this clear, we did not remove these people because they are ECOWAS nationals.
“There are still many ECOWAS nationals living with us, because of the security challenge, we removed only those that did not have travel documents, to even let us know of their nationality. Because it is the travel document of a holder that will determine his nationality,’’ she said.
The immigration boss said the persons repatriated include users of illegal routes and those who loitered around with the tendency for criminal acts. The comptroller-general said that the service was working in line with the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of persons into member states.
“When you enter, you should register your presence with the local government office of the immigration service; and when you stay, you have the right to stay for nine months within which you will be able to look for employment.
“When you get this employment, you are supposed to regularise your stay; you have the right to establish a business, but you must follow due process and establish yourself,” she said.
Ms. Uzoma noted that when parts of Nigeria’s boarders were closed earlier in the year, the service was able to stop at least 17,000 Nigerians from leaving the country through illegal routes.
President Goodluck Jonathan had in his Jan. 1, 2012 national broadcast, ordered the closure of parts of Nigeria’s boarders in some states citing security reasons.
The immigration boss also said that the service was working with various agencies to help bring back Nigerians, who were trafficked to other countries of the world.
“We are not only partnering with NEMA, we are also partnering with NAPTIP; a lot of Nigerians have been brought back from Mali, Morocco, and Niger; Nigerians are being brought back and the Nigerian Immigration Service has been part of it.
“Apart from that, we even travelled as far as other European countries – those countries that we have returnee agreement with – to go and identify Nigerians and ensure that they are brought back in a humane manner and also talk to Nigerians and encourage this Voluntary Returnee Assistance,” she said.
She said that the service had signed agreements with countries such as Switzerland on how to resettle returnee Nigerians with a specific amount of money to enable them re-establish themselves.