‘The government should make the visa process more stringent to screen out unscrupulous elements’

Following the spiralling confrontation between local villagers and Nigerian residents in Goa, African students in New Delhi say they fear the incident may sharpen prejudice directed at the community.

Sadiq, a student of graduation in computer science, alleged that most African nationals were subjected to discrimination by locals and painted with the same brush. “One cannot judge the book by its cover. Colour of the skin does not determine one’s social behaviour,” he said.

“It is a fact of life that while some white-skinned are of criminal bent, likewise, some black also indulge in crimes. However, I have encountered many situations in Delhi were I was abused and harassed merely because I am black. Thankfully, down South, people generally do not behave in such fashion,” he said.

An estimated thousand students from African countries today live in the capital. Many Africans are also engaged in various jobs and businesses like export of garments, eatables and pharmaceuticals. Most of them live in rented accommodations in Uttam Nagar, Bindapur, Tilak Nagar, Vasant Vihar, Navada and Green Park.

Another student, Zulkar Naili, said: “We face many challenges everyday. Although on the campus we come across many amicable Indians, it is altogether a different world outside. Misconceptions, ignorance and apathy lead locals to target us without any provocation. My advice to fellow Nigerian friends is to ignore such racist slurs and comments.”

His fellow Mohammad Jamil – a PhD research scholar in pharmacognosy – said: “Apprehending maltreatment, most African nationals take refuge in their own community and are cautious of interacting with locals. They gradually come close to fellow students and are only comfortable with those who help them in their studies.”

India remains attractive to Nigerians, though, despite the problems.

“It takes three months for us to get a U.S. visa, but procuring an Indian visa is much easier in Nigeria. The entire process is completed within a week. The government will have to strengthen the system of issuing visas as a large number of Nigerians with bad intent are gaining entry and indulging in crimes. While in such circumstances all African nationals get branded as criminals, this certainly does not help bona fide visa holders like me,” said Falayi, a Nigerian national.

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