1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany likely to deport scores of Nigerian asylum seekers

Martina Schwikowski
November 9, 2023

Thousands of Nigerian migrants could be affected by German government plans to step up deportations of rejected asylum seekers. Experts warn about an insecure environment for migrants repatriated to Nigeria.

A migrant is seen from behind as two police officers take him up the stairs into an airplane
The German government has plans to deport more migrants as complaints about the growing number of incoming refugees grow louderImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Many people living in Nigeria have been following an increasingly heated debate on migration to Europe — especially since Germany approved legislation last month making it easier for authorities to deport people who have had their asylum requests denied. 

Germany's proposed law would likely result in the repatriation of thousands of Nigerians to their homeland. 

Despite Berlin's determination to toughen its migration policy, many Nigerians still dream of living in Europe.

"If I have the opportunity to go legally for greener pastures, that's better for me, as the hardship here is seriously challenging," suggested one local in Abuja's Area 10 Market, a popular spot where people meet to discuss such issues.

Germany to speed up deportation of rejected asylum-seekers

Some other local Nigerians expressed doubts about the often risky move of leaving their homeland in an effort to reach Europe. 

"I wouldn't want to leave Nigeria. If all Nigerians leave, who will be left to call themselves Nigerians?" another mused. "We need to build Nigeria rather than just leave."

Why do so many Nigerians want to live in Germany?

Nigeria —  Africa's most populous country and one of West Africa's most stable democracies — is struggling with corruption, unemployment, and Islamist militants who are waging a 14-year conflict in Nigeria's northeast, where 40,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced since 2009.

More than 1,800 first-time asylum requests were submitted by Nigerians to German authorities between January and September this year.

Judith Ibi, a Nigerian lawyer, told DW that many Nigerians leave their country to seek better job prospects, higher wages and improved living standards in Germany.

She blamed the Nigerian goverment for not fulfilling its functions and obligations to its citizens, saying that the country's constitution provides for social policies that should facilitate the lives of its citizens, making it easier for them to live as citizens in Nigeria.

"But the government's failure to provide these amenities is a significant issue," she claimed.

Remigration to Nigeria

During his visit to Nigeria at the end of October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a closer partnership to manage migration. He advocated for the expansion of migration centers that were set up to support returnees from Germany and other countries, and insisted on the return of rejected asylum seekers.

"This requires some preparation and investment — on both sides," said Scholz in Lagos.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu expressed openness to accepting the return of migrants, and plans are underway to expand migration centers in Nigeria.

Tinubu has said he supports the repatriation of migrants, provided that they are Nigerian.

Proving this might be the most difficult part of the scheme because their identity cannot always be established. 

Of almost 14,000 asylum seekers from Nigeria obliged to leave Germany, some 12,500 are allowed to stay mostly because they have no identity papers.

Celestine Odogwu, a sociology lecturer at the University of Abuja, strongly supports Berlin's intended move to repatriate Nigerians without the right to stay in Germany.

"It is unfortunate that Nigerians are in a situation where they have nothing to do in Germany," Odogwu said.

"However, what the German authorities are asking for is to protect their economy and state, which is normal for any responsible government. When illegal migrants are found in a community, they create nuisance."

Germany needs skilled migrants 

While Germany plans to step up deportations of rejected asylum seekers, it is also keen to attract more foreign skilled workers to fill labor market gaps. 

The German parliament in June passed a new immigration law reform designed to encourage more people from outside the European Union to come to Germany for work.

The migrant centers discussed by Scholz and Tinubu during the chancellor's visit to Nigeria would also be used to provide advice to skilled workers who want to migrate to Germany.

Henrik Maihack, who heads the Africa department at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German political foundation politically affiliated with the Social Democratic Party and committed to the values of social democracy, told DW that Europe's long-term strategic objective should be attracting more skilled migrants to the continent rather than discussing the repatriation of people have had their asylum requests denied. 

"Because by 2050, one-third of all Europeans will be in retirement," Maihack said.

A red traffic light shines in front of the word 'Asylum' on a signpost
The increasing number of migrants and refugees and the low number of deportations has become a major political issue in GermanyImage: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance/dpa

"Germany ... will need to think about ways of becoming an attractive destination for skilled migrants, added Maihack. "This will be a strategic question as this will be a crucial pillar of ensuring our future economic prosperity in Europe."

The German government is under intense pressure from opposition parties that accuse it of failing to control immigration and prevent illegal migration to Germany. 

Tahir Della, spokesperson for the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (Initiative of Black People in Germany), told DW that politicians feel driven by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party — which has gained popularity over its hardline anti-immigration stance.

However, he suggested that politicans need to ask themselves the questions: To where do we deport them, and what are the security conditions there?

"Germany is not on the brink," he added.

Ben Shemang in Abuja contributed reporting 

Edited by: Keith Walker 

While you're here: Every weekday, we host AfricaLink, a podcast packed with news, politics, culture and more. You can listen and follow AfricaLink wherever you get your podcasts.