Russia 2018: Stranded Nigerians sleep outside embassy building
As Russia 2018 winds to a close on Sunday, about 200 Nigerians may not have good stories to share, at least for now.
Having gone to Europe to cheer their country and/or hunt for lucrative jobs, including playing pro football, their lives have taken a downside.
With no money and no visa, they do not have anything to cheer on both fronts.
Tricked by scammers, Fans ID, a travel document issued by the government to those travelling to for World Cup, is their only hope of returning home.
“I paid a lot of money down here,” one Nigerian told DW’s Miodrag Soric. “But I don’t want to stay. I don’t have a plan because I know my Fan ID card cannot allow me to stay more than July 25. And I don’t want to go against the Russian.”
Two brothers Ismail and Sodiq Olamilekan said they N250,000 naira each to a man in Lagos for their Fan IDs. They planned to become professional footballers in Russia. Others paid over a million naira for the document.
“The man told us that with the Fan ID we could get a job and stay here,” Ismail told AFP at a hostel on the outskirts of Moscow, where a kind Muslim man provided shelter.
“But when we got here we discovered that it was a fraud, that he had just collected the money and lied to us.”
Other Nigerians, however, found themselves stranded in Russia after fraudulent “agents” who booked return flights for them cancelled the bookings to get a refund.
Now they need help from the Nigerian embassy to return home.
But the Nigerian embassy in Russia is not doing enough to help transport the stranded persons back, says Julia Siluyanova, who heads Alternativa in Moscow.
Alternativa is a Russian NGO that works with victims of human traffickers.
Siluyanova believes only a fraction of the stranded persons has contacted her NGO.
“Unfortunately, we can’t help everyone,” she says.
She says her organisation was contacted by the Nigerian embassy that a private plane which will take the stranded persons back to Nigeria has been provided.
But when Alternativa got to the airport with the stranded persons, there was no official from the Nigerian embassy to receive them. No plane and no explanation was given.
A representative, however, showed up after seven hours later to tell them there was no flight to take them back home.
“Seven hours we were waiting there. A representative came to say no flight. ‘Sorry, guys’,” Siluyanova says.
She said the police gave them two large buses to take the Nigerians to the embassy in order to put pressure on the Nigerian ambassador Prof. Steve Ugbah into helping his countrymen return home.
“But the ambassador did not come,” Siluyanova laments.
“Nigerian embassy, they are crazy,” one of the stranded persons is heard saying in the video shared on Facebook my Soric.
Another one who spoke to DW says the list he and his co-travellers expected from the government was to fly them back to Nigeria and prosecute the agents that defrauded them.
A message sent to an email listed on the embassy’s website has not been replied. Phone calls to both the numbers for the embassy and Mr Ajayi Olumide Folarin, who is the senior counsellor ( Education, Culture and Information) were not returned either. An SMS sent to Ajayi also returned undelivered.
Ajayi, however, told AFP on Friday that it had made arrangements to house 57 stranded Nigerians and would work with Russian authorities and airlines to find a way to send them home.
For the stranded fans, they have until July 23 to find their way home, after which they will be deported.
AFP contributed to this report.
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