Nigerians have reacted to the planned imposition of the European Union (EU) Schengen Visa on Nigerian nationals following the announcement that the EU may soon tighten the procedures as the Nigerian government is said to be failing to play its part in the return and readmission of its nationals staying illegally in Europe.
According to the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Virginie Battu-Henriksson on Monday, the EU may introduce several measures that will make it more difficult for Nigerians to get a Schengen Visa, as a result of the country’s noncooperating government.
“What the EU can do since new rules on short-stay visas to the EU became applicable on 2 February 2020, is to adapt the rules on processing short-stay visa applications, depending on whether a non-EU country cooperates satisfactorily on the return and readmission of their nationals staying irregularly in the EU,” Battu-Henriksson explained. She however, added that this is by no way a ban on Nigerian nationals, like the one the US President Donald Trump imposed on Nigeria.
Battu-Henriksson also claimed that Nigerians are still among the top 10 nationalities detected as staying irregularly in the EU although the number of Nigerians travelling irregularly to the EU had dropped.
“Nigerians still place among the top 10 nationalities detected as staying irregularly on the EU territory, although the number of Nigerians entering the EU irregularly declined drastically last year,” she said.
Speaking to BusinessDay on Tuesday, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Awual Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani said that Nigeria being in partnership with the EU countries should work and find amicable ways to address the concern of European countries.
He noted that if Nigerians are travelling and staying illegally in EU countries, it is important that the Nigerian government first and foremost look at reasons many Nigerians are desperate to travel out of Nigeria.
“Part of the reason simply is lack of access to opportunities, secondly is lack of jobs in the country, thirdly the insecurity in the country is also pushing people out of the country. Fourthly there is also a wrong impression that when you travel to Europe or America your life will be better off. This, in my opinion, is why the Nigerian government should honestly and sincerely embark of public education to many Nigerians who struggle sometimes dyeing in the process to leave Nigeria,” he said.
He urged the Nigerian government to digitalize data of all Nigerians, saying, “because part of the complaints of the EU and the Americans is that there is no data capturing of Nigerians. So today, a Boko Haram member will be arrested and freed and he or shewill travel out of Nigeria and found himself in those countries. So we need to have a tracking system that is not compromised. Once we have that there is no reason the EU or US will deny our legitimate travelers visa, if they do that, that will be a gross violation of their right to legal migration.”
Rafsanjani called on the Nigerian government to ensure good governance where Nigerians can feel safe and seek opportunities and get jobs whether private or government jobs. “Nigeria should also work to ensure peace in the country because the insecurity in the country is alarming.
If Nigeria is working, there is equal opportunity, there is peace in the country, there are jobs, I don’t see reasons many Nigerians would want to leave this country. This country is blessed with so many things but we are unfortunately not blessed with patriotic leaders at all levels,” he added.
He also tasked the EU countries not to deprive legitimate Nigerian travelers because that will constitute violation of human rights.
Also speaking to BusinessDay on Tuesday, a retired Nigerian diplomat, who does not want his name on print, said that the attitude of Nigerians and the Nigerian government continue to baffle the world about our lack of compliance to procedures.” He added that “every country in the world appears to have become fixated on Nigerians for reasons that some Nigerians have been associated with staying in Europe illegally and sometimes engaging in illegal affairs.”
The former envoy however, urged the Nigerian government to do the right thing adding that most Nigerian citizens in Europe and elsewhere are committed professionals who have added value to the economy and social development of Europe and other parts of the world.
The new rules on Schengen visas that Battu-Henriksson mentioned derive from the recently updated Schengen Visa code, in which the EU Commission will regularly assess the level of cooperation of non-EU countries on the readmission of irregular migrants.
If the level of cooperation is insufficient, the commission, together with member states, can decide on a temporary more restrictive implementation of certain provisions of the visa code.
This could have an impact on the processing time, the length of validity of the visa to be issued, the level of the visa fee to be charged and the fee waivers.
Statistics by SchengenVisaInfo.com show that in 2018, Schengen embassies and consulates in Nigeria processed 88,587 visa applications, 44,076 of which were rejected thus marking the highest rejection rate of 49.8% among all third-countries in need of visas.
France was the top favourite country for visa submission, as 33,308 of the applications submitted in Nigeria were for Schengen visas to France, followed by Italy with 13,295 and Germany with 10,847 applications.
In terms of expenditures, in 2018, Nigerians spent €5,315,220 (N2. 2 billion) in visa applications to Europe, €2,644,560 (N1. 2 billion) of which money was spent by applicants who had their visas rejected.
By Innocent Odoh, Abuja