Only 88 Nigerian nationals live in Mumbai legally, police records show, with 33 Nigerians already deported from the city this year for reasons such as visa expiry, violating visa norms, or being caught on the wrong side of the law including drug trade. However, they pointed out that there was also a large number who worked with the police as translators and informants.
Police said there was a large floating population of Nigerians who work in Mumbai but live in the outskirts of Mumbai, like Mira Road and Navi Mumbai, police said.
“While valid visa holders choose these Mira Road and Navi Mumbai because of low rents, they are also preferred by those involved in criminal activities as they can easily hide from the police there,” said a senior officer, adding once they cross city limits the jurisdiction changes to Thane rural and Navi Mumbai making it complicated to trace them. A majority of Nigerian nationals come to India on work and student visas.
About those on the wrong side of the law, police said Nigerian gangs were among the main suppliers of drugs. In 2011, 33 Nigerians were arrested in drug-related cases, while in 2012, the figure jumped to 65.
In 2013, in order to bring down the supply of drugs in the city, the police started booking Nigerians for forgery, if fake documents were submitted for SIM cards. This was done because the phone became the main instrument in drug supply and police hoped stringent application of the law would deter drug peddlers.
A senior IPS officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was pressure on the police from the central government when action was taken against foreign nationals, especially those from Africa. The reason being African nations usually support India in various world forums.