Twenty-five Nigerian students living in Aarey Colony, a suburb of Mumbai, India were on Monday served notices by their real estate agents, asking them to vacate their flats within 15 days.
Agitated by the notice, the students have submitted a protest to the police.
One of the affected student, Maureen Ijeoma, said, “It is extremely difficult to find an accommodation in this city because nobody wants to rent out their house to a black person. Such a notice is humiliating and unfair.”
Real estate agents have however passed the buck to the police, claiming that in a meeting held on August 27 between them and the police, the latter gave them a general instruction, asking them not to entertain Nigerians as they are often involved with “online crimes and drug peddling”.
But the police on Wednesday clarified that they had only asked property owners to get their tenants’ documents verified, not evict them.
It is mandatory to register details of the tenant, landlord and the leave-and-licence agreement made between them with the local police station.
Failure can invite a month’s imprisonment or fine.
“We do not have powers to evict anybody. Drives to check documents of tenants and landlords are carried out across the city and not just at Aarey Colony,” said ACP Kishore Jadhav.
“We will not entertain Nigerians,” said a secretary of one of the buildings in Royal Palms Estate of Mayur Nagar.
Another resident said, “They are a threat as they drink on the premises and come with women at odd hours.”
Royal Palms is considered to be among the many foreigner-friendly areas of the city. But things are slowly changing where African nationals are considered.
One building – Garden View Apartments – stopped letting flats to Nigerians since January 2012, when the crime branch arrested six Nigerians in a major online fraud racket.
A real estate agent pointed out that there are cases where Nigerians, who rented flats alone, got their brothers or friends over.
“We check the credentials of the one renting the flat, but it becomes difficult to keep track of others who join later. At some places, societies take disciplinary action, but where the societies are not formed, the agents/flat owners are in the dock,” said the agent.
President of Nigerian Students Union in Mumbai, Folorunso Sorinmade, is helping other students co-ordinate with the police.
“Most of these students will be appearing for their university exams in October. People cannot harass them by asking them to vacate their flats at this point, as it is difficult to get accommodation in Mumbai.
“We do understand that a few Nigerians are involved in bad activities, but students are not involved. There cannot be a blanket rule for all,” Sorinmade, an MCom student in Thakur College who lives in Vasai, said
Himanshu Arora, vice-chairman of Garden View Apartments, said, “We do not discriminate between foreign nationals. The police have asked us to ensure police verification is duly done, failing which tenants are not permitted to rent out flats. This applies even to Indian tenants.”
When asked why Nigerians are not allowed to stay in the society, a committee member said, “We have taken a decision and we will stick to it.”