The European Union has said it could impose restrictive visa implementation rules on Nigeria if it fails to play its part in the return and readmission of its nationals staying illegally in the EU.
According to The PUNCH, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Virginie Battu-Henriksson, made the disclosure in an email chat with the newspaper on Tuesday.
Battu-Henriksson stated that although the EU would not place a visa ban on Nigeria, it could make its visas more difficult for Nigerian applicants if Nigeria fails to meet its standards.
When quizzed if the EU had challenges Nigeria was trying to resolve with the United States, she said, “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.
“Nigerian criminal networks remain active in Europe, and Nigeria remains the main non-EU country of origin for victims of trafficking (mainly women) registered in the EU.”
Battu-Henriksson stated that if Nigeria does not play its part in the readmission of its citizens living illegally in the EU, the union could adapt the rules on processing short-stay visa applications.
“Under the new rules, 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,” the EU spokesperson said.
Battu-Henriksson recalled that in 2016, an EU Council decision authorised the opening of negotiations on readmission agreement with Nigeria – making it only the second country in West Africa with which the EU was negotiating such a formal agreement.
The readmission agreement seeks to ensure that Nigerians travelling to the EU take only the legal routes. It also seeks to ensure that Nigeria is able to readmit its citizens living illegally in the EU.
The EU comprises of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and 23 other countries.
Responding, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it had not received any official notice from the EU that it was considering Nigeria for visa restriction rules.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Ferdinand Nwonye, told The PUNCH that, “We had European Union-Nigeria dialogue on Tuesday and the matter was not brought up. It was not brought up at all.
“Be that as it may, it has not come to us officially. And you know definitely that anybody who has a visa and the visa expired based on the conditions of the issuance, the person is expected to come back or renew his stay there.”
Recall that on January 31, 2020, the US government officially imposed an immigrant visa ban on six countries, including Nigeria.
Under the new policy, citizens of the affected countries would not be allowed to apply for visas to emigrate to the US under the policy aimed at tightening “security for countries that don’t comply with the US minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.”
According to the US Department of Homeland Security, Nigeria presents a high risk, relative to other countries in the world, of terrorist travel to the US.
In its reaction, the Federal Government set up a committee headed by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, to ensure that Nigeria meets requirements the US said were not in place.
The committee met with the US Consular General in Abuja on February 5 with a view to addressing issues raised in the visa ban.