Nigerian nationals living in Egypt have lamented the “incessant arrests and maltreatment” by the government of their host country over their inability to pay a sum of $1,000 demanded to renew their residence permit in the country.
A Nigerian businessman based in Cairo, the Egyptian capital revealed this to SaharaReporters, stating that the government, in a newly made law, mandated all the foreigners in the country to pay the demanded $1,000 before March 13, 2024, or risk being jailed.
The source said instead of waiting for the deadline date, the security operatives in North African countries have started victimising Nigerians and other foreigners yet to pay the money.
He said instead of deporting them to their home country, the Egyptian government decided to keep them in prison and said they would not be released until their families raised money for deportation and refunded all the expenses incurred on them while in detention.
The businessman said what made it difficult for many Nigerians to pay the money was that the law was made suddenly, without any prior notice, and the demanded money was not what they could afford.
The source said, “They changed their laws. This new regulation is a different one because their economy also is not stable.
“The government wants all foreigners living in the country to pay 1,000 dollars. And considering the work they are doing here, it would be difficult to pay that kind of money.
“The government earlier gave March 13, 2024, as the deadline for payment. But the deadline has not even been reached that they started parking people into cells and prisons.”
“It is after they had been jailed that they would ask their families to send money for deportation. And for those whose family could not afford to send deportation money, he would be held inside the cell till when they could afford it,” he added.
He said that Nigerians and other arrested foreigners were subjected to inhuman and harsh treatment in the cells.
He continued: “Those who have been to the prison complained about the hardship inside the cells. They say that you would not even pray for your enemies to enter there. They are parking them everywhere.
“The money the government asked them to pay is too much and not something the majority of them can afford. If they had that kind of money, they would not be doing menial jobs here.
“The law was pronounced suddenly and it affects Nigerians and other foreigners here. The government did not give them any notice.”
A Nigerian student studying Sharia at Al-Azhar University in Cairo told SaharaReporters that many Nigerians living in Egypt were panicky except for students.
He said they are not buoyant enough to renew their residence permit.
He also stated that many Nigerians who wish to return home cannot afford the airline fares to do so.
He said, “Nigerians are ready to leave here if they see plans that would convey them freely because it is better to go back home than to die in their cells. The level of maltreatment is high.
“Those that can pay the demanded $1,000 among Nigerians are very few. And it is wrong because we are paid in Egyptian pounds but they are requesting us to pay dollars. Once they arrest people, it is straight to prison.
“Because of this situation, Nigeria are no longer safe. They only try to walk at night to avoid being arrested,” he added.
When contacted over the issue, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) Director of Media, Public Relations and Protocols, said the agency was aware of the issue but could not intervene.
He said, “I am aware of the incident. But I don’t know the connectivity of that with the Nigerian government. Why are they now saying that the Nigerian government should come with a free plane to take them out?
“It is not that they are on government scholarships. They went there on their own volition. If the Nigerian government increases our tax, will another country come and interfere? We cannot intervene in the operation of another country. It’s a sovereign country.
“What they are doing, they have not jeopardized their fundamental human rights. Nigerian government cannot tell Egyptians that the money is too much because Egypt too can’t tell us that. We should not be bringing up sentiments; this is international politics.
“Of course (the matter is about the renewal of permits). Within the country here, when Nigeria increased our fuel from N167 to N600, can Egyptians say it is too much for them? They would leave the country.”