Nigerian envoy assails Korea over deportations
By Philip Iglauer
Nigerian ambassador to Korea Desmond Akawor criticized Korea’s policy on immigration, saying the country’s treatment of many Nigerians here amounts to a policy of deportation.
In what the ambassador described as both unnecessary and unfair, he said some 30 Nigerians — some of whom had lived here for more than a decade, were sent back to their home country in the past six months.
In an interview with The Korea Times on Sept. 28, Akawor said so-called “double identity” issues, whereby an individual has two different names on official or legal documents, had cropped up for many Nigerians living and working in Korea because they initially found their way here through Korean employment recruiters that treated them as a collective workforce without considering their identity.
“Many of them had been here for more than 10 years. They have families and businesses here and played by the rules. They have essentially settled down here in Korea,” Akawor said. “It isn’t fair to deport them for something that really isn’t their fault at all, but rather because the recruiters that brought them here in the first place had no regard for their real names.”
On Aug 12, Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru summoned the Korean Ambassador to Nigeria Park Young-kuk to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, Nigeria, over the deportations, according to a news bulletin on the Nigerian Foreign Ministry’s website.
In the meeting, Ashiru characterized the expulsions as “unfriendly, unnecessary and unfair, considering more importantly the fact that most of the affected Nigerians have long lived in South Korea, employed and married to South Korean spouses.”
“President Lee Myung-bak cannot say with his left hand ‘Africa is the center of his policy on energy’ and then with his right hand chase Nigerians away from Korea,” Akawor said.
KOGAS signed a natural gas deal with Nigeria just weeks ago and bilateral trade between the two countries is increasingly robust. So, it makes no sense for Korea to be unreasonable about a visa issue that is very important to Nigerians here, Akawor said.
He asked the Korean government to regularize the stay of Nigerians whose entry visas have expired. He said regularization would stop the attendant hardship of a mass expulsion, as well as prevent their continued exploitation by local employers.
Korean-Nigerian annual trade has been about $2 billion for the past three years with Korea’s exports to Nigeria making up the bulk of that in machinery, automobiles and electronics. For the first seven months of 2011, trade volume stood at $2.3 billion, Korean exports to Nigeria accounting for about $2 billion.