The client, Mr. Ibrahim* was raised in a community in Kwara State in Western Nigeria, where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C) is practiced. After his first daughter was born, his family pressured him to have her undergo FGM/C. Mr. Ibrahim and his wife resisted the practice and were repeatedly threatened and attacked by his family for this. Consequently, they fled Nigeria and requested asylum in the United States.
Mr. Ibrahim claimed to be at risk of persecution by his family. He feared they would find them and subject his two daughters to FGM/C. His lawyer reached out to us and requested a country expert opinion to form part of the evidence in the asylum claim. Our task was to assess Mr. Ibrahim’s case and determine whether his daughters would be at risk of FGM/C, whether they would be able to relocate within Nigeria, and whether the authorities would be able to protect them.
FGM/C in Nigeria
Although the national FGM/C prevalence is 19.5% in Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim’s family is from a region with a prevalence of 46%, with additional evidence that FGM/C is practiced among their specific ethnic group. Even though the Federal Government of Nigeria passed a law banning FGM/C (the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015), it is up to each state to pass similar legislation prohibiting FGM/C in its territory. Only 14 out of 36 states have similar laws in place, and - more importantly - these laws are not implemented: not a single court case has ever taken place in the country. Government protection is absent. The impact of the efforts to prevent and eliminate harmful traditional practices in Nigeria, including FGM/C, are very limited. UN agencies and NGOs would not be able to provide effective protection.
In assessing the case and putting together our elaborate expert opinion, we found Mr. Ibrahim’s account consistent with Dr. Middelburg’s background knowledge. We concluded that it was plausible that his daughters could face real risk (‘foreseeable risk’) to undergo FGM/C upon return to Nigeria. Also, given the circumstances, it couldn’t be requested for Mr. Ibrahim to settle elsewhere in his home country. Consequently, if returned to Nigeria, they would probably find themselves in a situation that conflicts with the 1951 Refugee Convention.
*For security and privacy reasons, the names of clients and specific facts and details from this case have been modified.