Lagos - The recent deportation of more than 19 000 illegal immigrants has raised fears of insecurity among foreign nationals living in Nigeria.
Nigeria deported thousands of foreigners, mainly from Niger, Cameroon, Benin and Mali, as part of security measures following recent political problems emanating from Boko Haram.
Nigeria's Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, said most of the illegal foreigners deported posed a serious security threat to Nigeria.
Since then, foreigners mostly from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), have been living in fear of being deported due to heightened attacks by Boko Haram.
Some of the foreigners, who spoke to CAJ News, vehemently denied any link with Boko Haram.
Instead, they argued, they had lived peacefully in Nigeria for years.
"My friend was among those deported last week. We are from Niger. We have been in this country for almost 14 years now.
"Just because he was a cart pusher, the police arrested him, and they have now sent him back home," said Bende Saidi.
Another foreigner from Cameroon, who refused to disclose his name, said it was unfortunate that the Nigerian government was 'hunting' for them based on the possibility that they might be Boko Haram members.
"We are not Boko Haram, neither do we have links with them. Let them (government security forces) go after those that are Boko Haram members and leave us alone," he said.
Meanwhile some human rights groups have called upon the Nigerian authorities to exercise caution during the mass deportations.
Olusegun Adeko of Know Your Rights Initiative, told CAJ News that Nigeria, as a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was sending a wrong signal to other member states.
"I believe we need to be careful on this issue. Yes, some of them may be here illegally, but likewise, Nigerians in other West African countries too. If any foreigner is suspected of being a terrorist, such persons should be investigated, arrested and tried in court," Adeko said.
Nigeria has of one of the most porous borders in Africa. Hundreds of illegal immigrants from various African countries find their ways into the country daily.
- CAJ News