More than 300 illegal immigrants have been arrested by the Nigeria Immigration Service in Edo State during operation conducted in the three senatorial districts of the state.
Speaking, yesterday, while parading the illegal immigrants at the command headquarters, controller of Immigration, Edo Command, Mr David Akwo, said 120 of those arrested would be deported, while the Malians among them would be handed over to authorities of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, in line with UN resolution.
Akwo cautioned citizens of West African countries not to misconstrue the ECOWAS Protocol on movement of citizens of member states across the region.
“You are all aware that recently, foreigners have been arrested for crimes in the state. So with the assistance of the governor, we decided to raid and apprehend illegal immigrants.
“In the course of that, we arrested about 400 persons, but during our screening we found out that some of them are Nigerians, so we left those ones. And of course some of these immigrants who have legal documents that qualify them to stay, we had to release them too.
“That left us with 120 illegal immigrants who do not possess valid travelling documents, so they are liable to be sent back to their countries.
On ECOWAS protocool of free movement, he said there was a proviso, that is to say for ECOWAS citizens to move freely and gain entry into ECOWAS member states, they have to possess valid travel documents.
“Secondly, they have to come in through authorized route, that is where you have immigration clearance, either through the airport or of course the sea port, where your passport will be stamped and may be given 90 days to stay.
“Now, some of them present National ID cards but you and I know that these are not travelling documents, they are just to identify you as citizen of your country. So all these persons here majority are Nigeriens, we have a few Ghanaians, we have some from Guinea, we have Malians and or two Chadians.
“So because they don’t have any valid documents, we have to send them back to their countries.
“You know that a lot of them have been arrested following the Boko Haram activities and we want to make our country free from criminals. When we talk of ECOWAS Protocol, what people don’t understand is that there has to be valid documents, to be able to move freely in the ECOWAS countries and entry must be through designated entry points.
“For Malians, you know what is happening in the country; the UNHCR has written to members states not to send them back to their country, because of the situation there now, but we will send them to the refugee camp under UNHCR,” he said.
Akwo therefore cautioned Nigerians on the type of persons they employ as security guards, saying care should be taken so that such employees do not constitute security risks.
“What I want to add is by way of advice to residents of Edo State; we discovered that some of the people, especially among the well-to-do, employ these undocumented immigrants, which is very dangerous.
“They should ensure they anybody they employ, they bring them for proper documentation, so that they don’t end up employing security people that will become risk and endanger their life, instead of somebody protecting you, he now ends up to become your albatross”.