Nigerian asylum seeker Eze Okafor, who is on the run from Boko Haram, is still struggling to hold on in Sweden with very little support. Meanwhile in Iceland, the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) has asked Eze for more documentation.
Friends of Eze Okafor recently contacted The Grapevine to give us an update on his situation. He is reportedly staying near Stockholm at an undisclosed location. While he receives some financial support from his friends back in Iceland, Swedish authorities do not provide him with any support whatsoever.
Further, UTL has requested he send documentation demonstrating his connections to the Icelandic community. This request, while not unheard of, is very unusual in cases of those seeking asylum on humanitarian grounds. In addition, UTL normally only considers family members of the applicant when determining what a connection to Iceland entails, despite Eze having lived in Iceland for four years and having numerous friends.
Eze’s case has gained international attention, and has been reported by media outlets such as Al-Jazeera. It has also reportedly made its way to the Nigerian media, most probably seen by Boko Haram, who are now awaiting his return.
As reported, Eze came to Iceland in 2012, fleeing persecution from Boko Haram. The terrorist group had harassed, stalked, and even physically assaulted him – by stabbing him in the head, leaving a noticeable scar.
The Directorate of Immigration (UTL) denied his application for asylum on humanitarian grounds, despite such protections being granted to other asylum seekers who hailed from similar circumstances. As such, he sought to appeal.
The Grapevine was able to review a copy of the ruling the Immigration Appeals Board made on March 15. In this ruling, they referred to both international law and Supreme Court rulings which state that if an asylum seeker is not deported within six months of being denied asylum, they can no longer be deported on the grounds of the Dublin Regulation. The Board stated in this ruling that in their view, the six-month grace period had certainly passed in Eze’s case.
Despite this, Eze was contacted shortly thereafter by UTL, who told him to report to the police. He did so early yesterday afternoon, was taken into custody, and was slated to be deported this morning to Sweden. From there, based on a decision made four years previous (when Boko Haram was not nearly as powerful a force as it is now), he will most likely be sent to Nigeria.
“I have lived in Iceland for four years, and I see Iceland as my home,” Eze told reporters last January. “Here, I have a place to live and people that I consider family. I have behaved, contributed to society, and have just attained balance in my life when I received this horrible news.”
Ezo is in fact still being sought by Boko Haram. If he returns to Nigeria, he says, his fate is all but sealed.
“I’m going to be sent back to Nigeria where my life is in danger,” he said. “I know these people [in Boko Haram] and I know that they are still looking for me. The only thing I ask is the opportunity to tell my story. That I am treated like a human being; not a number on a piece of paper.”