House Pushes for Repatriation of Illegal Chinese Immigrants

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

Following the maltreatment of Nigerians in China, the House of Representatives at the resumption of plenary on yesterday ordered investigation into the legality or otherwise of Chinese nationals living in the country currently for possible repatriation back to China.

The House consequently mandated its committees on Interior, Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring, and Commerce to investigate the Nigerian Immigration, Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigerian Content and Development Monitoring Board, and any other relevant Ministry, Department or Agency in a bid to commence processes that will lead to the repatriation of illegal Chinese immigrants.

The committees are to check the validity of all immigration documents of every Chinese person in Nigeria and the expatriate quota of all the Chinese businesses in Nigeria to ascertain the number of illegal and undocumented Chinese immigrants in Nigeria and to repatriate them to China to regularise.

The lawmakers also condemned “in its entirety, the maltreatment, discrimination and xenophobic attacks against Nigerians 1n the Peoples Republic of China.”

The resolutions were sequel to a motion titled: “Maltreatment and Institutional Acts of Racial Discrimination against Nigerians Living in China by the Government of China:” sponsored by Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu and nine others.

While moving the motion, the lawmaker said the House is aware that as a result of the mutually beneficial diplomatic and economic relationship between Nigeria and China, about 10,000 Nigerians, including investors, traders, workers and students, currently reside in and around Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province of the Peoples Republic of China.

“These Nigerians have generated massive trade volumes between the two countries such that for 2019 alone, the Nigeria-China trade value was worth over $8.6 billion.

“Recalls that sometimes on April 8, 2020, photos and videos appeared on various social media outlets depicting institutionalized acts of racial discrimination, maltreatment, xenophobic assaults, embarrassments, illegal detentions and forceful evictions of Nigerians and other Africans living in Guangzhou.

“Concerned that under the pretext of curbing the spread of COVID-l9, which ironically originated in Wuhan, China, several kinds of maltreatment of Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou have been perpetrated by Chinese people and authorities including wrongful confiscation of Nigerian International Passports, prolonged and illegal detention of Nigerians in the name of mandatory quarantine despite their having certificates of clean health and no recent travel history, outright refusal to release the test results, and the eviction of Nigerians from their homes and hotel accommodations, etc.;

“Worried that in the exercise of his function of protecting the interests of nationals of a Sending State as provided for under Article 5 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, the Nigerian Consul General was treated in clear violation of Article 40 of the said treaty which requires the Receiving State to treat consular officers with due respect and to take all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on their persons, freedom or dignity.”

The lawmaker also recalled the “troubling” case of Mr. Felix Awah Elijah, a Nigerian citizen and legal resident in China who he said mysteriously disappeared after his abduction and prolonged illegal detention by Chinese Police Authorities sometime around 6 February, 2019.

According to him, all letters and appeals from Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, his representative in the House of Representatives, were ignored by the Chinese Authorities.

He also expressed concern that the actions of the Chinese authorities do not reciprocate the favourable treatment their nationals enjoy in Nigeria, but have instead, put a strain on the diplomatic and economic relations between Nigeria and China thereby endangering Nigerian businesses in China valued at billions of dollars.

“Also worried that the actions and inactions of the Chinese Authorities clearly establish a trend of racial discrimination as defined in Article 1(1) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to mean “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”

Such actions and inactions are in breach of several other international conventions to which Nigeria and China are signatories, he said.

Kalu said that China is under an obligation to guarantee equality between citizens and non-citizens in the enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to the extent recognized under international law and enunciated especially in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Also aware that the Honourable Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Ahmed Jidda undertook various independent and coordinated interventions, including meetings with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingiian, to register Nigeria’s displeasure with the incidents;

“Further concerned that despite the assurances of the Chinese Government to arrest the situation, the maltreatment of Nigerians in China persists;

Kalu said that it has become imperative to take further actions to ensure the safety and welfare of Nigerians in line with the provisions of Section l4(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

The Green Chamber further urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies to, as a matter of urgency, “ensure that all Nigerians who wish to return home, including Nigerians that Only visited for business, Nigerians with any form of travel document and identification, Nigerians with passports but expired visas, and Nigerians with passports and valid visas who have been ejected by house owners, Nigerians who have tested negative to COVID-19, are evacuated from China and quarantined upon arrival;

The lawmakers further urged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide all necessary financial and other assistance to affected Nigerian citizens in China who wish to seek redress in any local or international court for breach of fundamental rights, loss of property or any other actionable cause occasioned by their maltreatment or discrimination in China.