UNHCR, ECOWAS seek more intervention for IDPs

Rahila Lassa, Abuja


The Nigerian Refugee Commission NRC in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, and the ECOWAS has called for more intervention for refugees and the Internally Displaced Persons in the country.

The Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Mrs Sadiya Farouq made the call at a press Conference ahead of the World Refugee Day, commemorated 20th of June, annually.

She said the world celebrates the Day to honour the courage and determination of refugees who were forced to flee their homes because of fear of persecution and conflict.

“ As we commemorate the 2019 World Refugee Day in Nigeria, the NCFRMI, UNHCR, ECOWAS and other stakeholders are in solidarity with over 35,000 Camerounian refugees in the shore of Nigeria and other refugees from Central African Republic, Turkey, Syria etc, that Nigeria play host to.

“We use this celebration to also identify with over 200,000 Nigerian nationals living as refugees in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon as well as other 2.1 million Nigerians internally displaced by the insurgency in the North-east,” she said.

While appreciating the UNHCR for scaling up its response and interventions in refugees crisis in Nigeria, Mrs farouq noted that the needs of the refugees have outweighed the assistance offered so far.

“Let me add here that today, the needs of the refugees has far outweigh the assistance offered so far. What this means is that a different approach is required to tackle the challenges emanating from the refugees in Nigeria. While Government explore options to manage refugee crises in Nigeria, #StepWithRefugees is mobilizing global public action, innovation and solidarity for refugees,” she added.

Speaking at the event, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, says empowering refugees and the Internally Displaced Persons is key to solving their problems and reducing their burdens on the host communities.

The UNHCR, representative to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Mr Antonio Jose Canhandula, said the World Refugee Day is celebrated annually to restore the dignity of refugees and by extension the Internally Displaced Persons.

“This year, the WRD promotes the theme of resolving forced displacement and honours the anniversaries of two landmark and significant treaties on forced displacement in Africa, putting a spotlight on forced displacement and focus attention on the African Union’s “ year of Refugees, Returnees, and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to forced Displacement in Africa”.

“The WRD of 2019 is an opportunity to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 OAU( Organisation of African Unity) Convention on the specific aspects of the Refugee problem in Africa, and the 10th anniversary of the 2009 African Union Convention on Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, also known as the Kampala Convention.” He said.

According to Mr Canhandula the UNHCR is investing in livelihoods alongside other partners to ensure that the IDPs and refugees around the world are self reliant.

Refugee Response Framework
He said the UNCHR had come up with a new approach” the Comprehensive refugee Response Framework, which will protect the Refugees and IDPs from being vulnerable and dependent, but makes them contributors to their host communities and countries of asylum.

“Including also the way which we deliver services. For the Cameroun situation for instance, instead of building schools and health centres in the settlements just for the refugees, we have decided that the best thing to do is to use the existing Government services and schools and then support those schools and institutions so that refugees don’t isolate themselves,”  he noted.

He explained that the new approach will not just look at the humanitarian funding, but also development funding to help resolve some of the needs of the population.

“We have been in contact with some of these enterprises, in Nigeria for instance, the Coca-cola, Procter and Gamble, you have The Daystar Christian Church that have actually shown interest in contributing to humanitarian situations so that the humanitarian situation is actually owned by the entire society”. He said.

Increasing IDPs
Mr Canhandula added that the number of IDPs and refugees has increased in recent times.

“We have in Niger Republic 112, 000 refugees to whom we should add another 20,000 that happened in the last two weeks that came from Zamfara and Sokoto States. We have 96,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroun of which 46,000 are in camps and others are trapped in the villages and we have 16,000 Nigerian refugees in Chad, this in terms of figures,” he added

On the part of the ECOWAS, The Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, said that 7 out of its 15 member States are playing host to refugees and IDPs.

“We are also recognizing that with the increase in refugees and migrants within our regions and IDPs, we are very, very proud that the host communities are sharing in the burdens to host these migrants and IDPs within our region”. The host communities are showing us what ECOWAS is, that’s the spirit of brotherhood, the spirit of regional integration in hosting these strong, courageous, displaced, refugee persons”. 

Dr Ugbe however called on the Governments, Civil societies and the private sector to help these communities share the burden of hosting those who have been forced to leave their homes, relationships and their communities.

“We also call on partners to support those who have pieces affected to become self reliant”.

She emphasised that the ECOWAS is in tune with this year’s theme: #StepWithRefugees.