32-year-old Nigerian, Eze Okafor, who claimed to have escaped Boko Haram attacks and fled to Iceland for refuge, have been deported after four years. Eze allegedly fled Nigeria in 2010 after being targeted by Boko Haram.
According to him, in 2010, he and his younger brother, Okwy, were attacked in retaliation for not joining the armed group. He had reportedly been stabbed in the head and face and survived, while his younger brother died outright, after members of Boko Haram stormed their house in Maiduguri, Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria.
After fleeing Nigeria, he made a long and dangerous boat journey to Europe, where in 2011 he sought asylum in Sweden. He told his story and showed his still-fresh and infected wounds, including the gash over his eye, which he feared would cost him his eyesight. He was denied asylum and made his way to Iceland, where he also tried to get asylum in 2012 but was denied as well.
He contacted a lawyer named Katrin Theodorsdottir, who helped him apply for and get permission to stay in on humanitarian grounds, while his case made its way through the system, and last October he was given temporary residency and could work. This not withstanding, he was deported to Sweden on May 26, 2016 and given papers that would keep him in Sweden only till June 1 or face deportation to Nigeria.
Eze had gone to the immigration office as instructed to pick up the paperwork, and was told to wait 45 minutes, which he did. Eze told Al Jazeera:
“The police said I should come to sign and all of a sudden they took me into custody. They arrested me. I spent the night in jail.”
“They next morning they said they were deporting me. I said I should go and get my stuff from my house. They said no. They took me to the airport and manhandled me.
“Iceland is my home now. I have contributed to the society here. Many people know me. My friends have become my family. In Iceland, I have been integrated into society, with so many friends. A lot of people know me. So when the police was beating me, when I was arrested, there was a lot of reaction.”
Eze recalled that on May 26 as he was handcuffed and put on a plane for deportation, two members of the rights group No Borders Iceland boarded the plane and stood up in protest, asking other passengers to stand up as well to protest at Eze’s deportation. After about 10 minutes, they were arrested by Icelandic police.
He was taken to Stockholm and at the airport, the Icelandic authorities refused to give him back the only ID he had – his Nigerian driver’s licence. They took it back to Iceland, while he was handed papers by the Swedish immigration authorities, which gave him until June 1 to leave Sweden or be deported back to Nigeria.
He was also given a piece of paper saying that he had no right to financial assistance. Without money or any identification, he was turned out on to the street where he spent the first night.
Eze says his fear is for his life, as he believes that when he lands at the airport in Nigeria, he will be apprehended by the police,which would mean death for him.
“What I am facing in Nigeria is that this Islamic group is after my life. My life is in danger. Boko Haram has a network. They have been looking for me since then.”
He is currently working hard with his friends to find a lawyer who can take his case in Sweden. His dream is to return to his home in Iceland. He worked in the restaurant in Iceland and had a good relationship with his boss. He loves to cook Nigerian food. Maybe, he said, once he is back in Iceland, and his life has found balance again, he could pursue a dream. There is no Nigerian restaurant in Iceland.
Theodorsdottir, however, said there is something the immigration office could do. She has requested that he be granted permission to live in Iceland on humanitarian grounds, a request that is still pending.