Despite being the world’s largest black nation with over 180 million people, thousands of Nigerians regularly leave the country daily to seek asylum in other countries. According to a special focus by Per Second News, for example, 13,656 Nigerians applied for Canadian Temporary Resident Visa between January to March , 2018.
A whooping 175, 474 Nigerians applied for the Temporary Resident Visa in the North American country between 2013 – 2018, according to documents sent to Per Second News by the Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship office.
The Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship approved a total of 82,277 applications from Nigerians, while 87, 247 Nigerians saw their applications denied. The Canadians say most of those granted visas refuse to go back to Nigeria and instead seek for asylum in what the Canadian authorities called ‘an unprecedented surge of asylum seekers from Nigeria.’
So far this year, the majority of illegal migrants arriving in Canada are Nigerians who have recently been issued U.S. travel visas.
“It is apparent that they obtained those visas with the express intent to actually go to Canada,” said Hursh Jaswal, communications director for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
“They land in the United States, where they stay for a very short period of time, and then make their way to Canada.”
Per Second News in a report last week revealed that the Canadian authorities has urged U.S. embassy officials in Lagos and Abuja to crack down on visas, saying many of the asylum seekers had valid U.S. visas and used the United States merely as a transit point.
The number of U.S. visas being issued to Nigerians has since dropped, said Mathieu Genest, a spokesman for Canadian Immigration and Refugee Minister Ahmed Hussen, revealed.
“Nigerians do not want to settle in the U.S. but in Canada. It is much easier for a citizen of Nigeria to obtain a tourist visa for the U.S. than for Canada,” Stephane Handfield, an immigration lawyer in Montreal, said. “So they get a U.S. tourist visa, stay a few days in the U.S. and cross the Canadian border.”
Responding to query by Per Second News, the Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship office, said that although a Canadian official has been sent to work with US visa officials in Lagos on three separate occasions and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen met with Nigerian government officials last month, it is important to note that Canadian authorities are not interfering or involved in decisions regarding the issuance of US visas.
“The U.S. is responsible for each decision that is made on whether to issue or not a visa. At the highest levels, both Canada and the United States have reaffirmed their determination to work together to combat abuse of US travel documents. This is part of the mutual long term cooperation between USA and Canada to protect our borders, said Nancy Caron, spokesperson for the Canadian immigration in an email to Per Second News.
“The Government of Canada continues to expand its overall outreach efforts to inform people and provide the facts about Canada’s asylum system by working closely with our missions in the U.S., by engaging with communities in the U.S. and issuing messages on social media channels in both Canada and the U.S. to provide accurate information.”
“The Government of Canada is committed to orderly migration, which includes providing protection to genuine refugees based on a well-founded fear of persecution, she told this newspaper on Monday.
” The government is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring the safety of Canadians, protecting our well-managed immigration system and fulfilling our international obligations. Minister Hussen has been clear that Canada’s asylum system is intended solely for those in need of our protection and it must be done through the proper channels. Entering Canada by irregularly crossing the border is not a free ticket to stay, each claim is heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) and unsuccessful claimants are removed to their country of origin.”
The Canadian immigration also revealed that there have been no visa policy changes for Nigerian nationals.
” Visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis based on the information presented by the applicant. The onus is on the applicant to show that they meet the requirements for a temporary resident visa (TRV). All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria. Canada does not limit the number of temporary resident visa applications that are accepted from any country.
“Coming across the border in a way that seeks to circumvent our procedures is no free ticket to Canada,” said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Canada wants to change a bilateral agreement to allow it to turn back thousands of asylum seekers walking across the border but the United States is not cooperating, according to a Canadian official with knowledge of the discussions.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, or STCA, asylum seekers who arrive at a formal Canada-U.S. border crossing going in either direction are turned back and told to apply for asylum in the first country they arrived in.
Canada wants the agreement rewritten to apply to the entire border.
Nigeria’s security issues, economic and political crisis has spurred one of the largest migration flows in history. The result has been a massive exodus of Nigerians to Libya, Ghana, South Africa, China, India, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, EU nations and many more. Independent groups estimate that 1 million to 2 million Nigerians have fled the country in recent years.