Authorities in the United Kingdom have excluded members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and some other secessionists from seeking asylum in their country.
In its updated asylum policy published in May and sighted by Channels Television, the UK explained that it took the decision as a result of the recent activities of such people as reported in Nigeria.
According to Britain, Nigerian authorities have since proscribed IPOB as a terrorist group while the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has also been banned, but not designated the same status as the former.
“IPOB is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government, and members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network (created in December 2020) – have reportedly committed human rights violations in Nigeria,” the document said.
“MASSOB has been banned but is not a proscribed terrorist group in Nigeria. It too has reportedly been involved in violent clashes with the authorities.
“If a person has been involved with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or uses violence to achieve its aims, decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable. Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.”
The UK stated that any person excluded from the Refugee Convention would also be excluded from a grant of humanitarian protection.
it, however, advised decision-makers to still consider all claims on an individual basis, taking into account each case’s specific facts.
The government also asked them to check if there had been a previous application for a UK visa or another form of leave, stressing that asylum applications matched to visas should be investigated prior to the asylum interview.
In the political context, the UK described Biafra as a loosely defined area in Nigeria’s south-east that roughly corresponds to Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Anambra States.
MASSOB, it said, was identified in May 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan as one of the three ‘extremist groups threatening national security’.
“MASSOB, since its formation in the late 1990s, has clashed with the security forces. Some sources report that numerous individuals have been killed, wounded, and arrested during these clashes – usually during demonstrations.”
“Through its online platform, ‘Radio Biafra’, and other social media, IPOB has increasingly used inflammatory rhetoric to encourage secessionist aspirations and resistance to the authorities, including violence,” the UK government said of IPOB.
“Sources reported that the security forces have arrested hundreds of IPOB supporters at different events, particularly between 2015 and 2017 and including during raids on homes of IPOB leaders. Since 2015, IPOB has also claimed that the security forces have used excessive force, including killing and injuring hundreds of its supporters.”