A United Kingdom court has ordered the UK Home Office to pay for and facilitate the return of a Nigerian man deported to Nigeria in March 2018.
The man, granted anonymity in the case, was jailed for four-and-a-half years for being a ‘prime mover in a criminal enterprise.’
He was jailed after he and ‘others under his control’ were found guilty of using stolen identities to submit 154 fraudulent VAT claims laundering the cash through bank accounts at a “substantial, and irrecoverable, cost to the United Kingdom taxpayer”.
But while in jail in January 2016, he filed for asylum, claiming he would be persecuted in Nigeria because he was bisexual and had paid for male prostitutes at a party while on holiday in the country.
Nigeria passed a law criminalising same-sex marriage and gay organisations in 2013, In Northern states under Sharia – Islamic religious law – death penalty is for people convicted of same-sex offences and 14-year jail term in other states.
The Home Office refused the appeal in April 2017 and said the claim had not already been considered and that, notwithstanding its rejection, it had a “realistic prospect of success” on appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
In November 2017, the Nigerian man informed the tribunal that he had changed his address but the tribunal officials sent the notice of his appeal hearing to his old address, hence, he was unaware of his substantive appeal hearing in December 2017 and did not attend.
During the hearing in December, the Home Office Presenting Officer told the judge that the appeal bundles, which listed the hearing date, had been sent to the Nigerian man’s new address and added that he had absconded.
While the Home Office’ claims are incorrect, the judge proceeded with the hearing in the absence of the Nigerian man and dismissed his appeal while the Nigerian man remained unaware of his appeal.
The Home Office then contacted him in February 2018 about an interview with the Nigerian authorities to facilitate his return.
He filed a new appeal and won. The Upper Tribunal allowed his appeal in May 2018 and remitted the case for a fresh hearing.
But by that time, he had been deported to Nigeria.
At the hearing last week, the President of the Upper Tribunal, Mr Justice Lane, ruled that his deportation was unlawful and that the Nigerian man had a right to have his appeal heard in the UK.
The judge said he did “not consider it appropriate to give the fact of the applicant’s criminal offence much weight” and that the Home Office had acted unlawfully by removing him for being out of time with his appeal.
He said the deportation had deprived the Nigerian man statutory right to an in-country appeal particularly significant, especially since his case concerned a claim of a real risk of persecution.
“We declare the removal of the applicant on 28 March 2018 to be unlawful,” Lane said.
The Home Office suggested that the hearing could take place via video link from Nigeria as COVID-19 had “complicated matters” but the judge insisted that the case for return is a “very strong one” and it was inappropriate for him to conduct his appeal from Nigeria.
Accordingly, Lane made an order “requiring the respondent to use her best endeavours to secure the applicant’s return to the United Kingdom for the purposes of his appeal.”