Nigerians Claim Bribes to Accept Deportees

John Mooney, Times of London, May 31, 2009

Authorities at Murtala Mohammed International airport in the Nigerian city of Lagos are demanding bribes from gardai before accepting illegal immigrants who are deported from Ireland.

Officials at the airport refuse to allow members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to repatriate Nigerian deportees who arrive on board special charter flights unless they receive payments or gifts, including bottles of Irish whiskey.

The practice of supplying “gifts” to security officials at the airport, which is the main transit point for Nigerian nationals deported by gardai, has been in place for years.

Security sources say they have no option but to offer bribes to ensure that deportees are allowed to disembark from charter flights.

“If they didn’t get something out of each charter flight, by way of money or gifts, they wouldn’t allow the deportees to even step off the plane,” a source said. “Believe it or not, the situation at the airport has improved in recent years. It used to be worse.”

The money used to pay for such gifts is accounted for in expenses or petty cash by immigration officers. The alcohol is usually purchased by garda detectives prior to the departure of charter flights.

Murtala Mohammed International airport, which is 10 miles outside Lagos, has a reputation of being one of the most corrupt on the continent, although the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Aviation has made efforts to curb corruption among officials.

According to travel websites, tourists passing through the airport are advised to bring extra money to pay bribes to officials. Immigration officers often demand money before stamping passports, while customs officers sometimes levy non-existent taxes.

The practice of giving bribes to immigration and security officials is known to other European police forces who are tasked with repatriating Nigerian immigrants.

“More Nigerians apply for asylum in the EU than perhaps any other nationality,” said the security source.

“Most EU police forces charter flights to deport large numbers who have illegally entered the EU and all of them offer bribes, be they gifts or money, on arrival at Lagos.

“No police or immigration officer wants to go along with this, but it’s the way they do business out there and it’s the only way of ensuring that the Nigerian authorities will accept our deportees.”

The Department of Justice spent almost €6.5m deporting 1,493 failed asylum seekers between 2004 and 2008. It spent €727,197 deporting 95 asylum seekers in 2008.

Gardai usually have to accompany a failed asylum seeker in case they pose a security threat to airline staff.

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