The government of the United Kingdom has flipped on its treatment of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), recognising Nigeria’s classification of the group as a terrorist organisation.
In a May 2022 update of its asylum policy, the UK government excluded members of the group from seeking refuge in England.
In April 2020, the UK was planning to grant asylum to persecuted members of the separatist group, as part of its refugee policy published at the time.
The policy, at the time, was for asylum to be granted to “persecuted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)”.
The UKVI, a division of the Home Office, directed its decision makers to consider if a person “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution”.
If the person can prove persecution, then the IPOB member or supporter could be granted asylum.
According to reports, few days after the policy notes were published, the UK government took it down, following complaints from the Nigerian government.
In July 2021, an updated policy on asylum with no clear mention of IPOB, but more emphasis on Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram’s onslaught was sighted by reporters.
In its May 2022 policy update, UKVI referred to IPOB as a terrorist organisation to be excluded from its asylum programme over alleged links to violence in the south-east.
“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,” UKVI said in its policy notes.
It added that “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”.
UKVI went on to tell its decision makers that “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 added.
Meanwhile, the UK has maintained distance from the on-going trial of IPOB leader, and UK citizen, Nnamdi Kanu.