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Forging a future for displaced persons

Internally displaced people, or IDPs, are often wrongly called refugees. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained…

Internally displaced people, or IDPs, are often wrongly called refugees. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight. As citizens, they retain all their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Nigeria, Mrs Gogo Hukportie, at the event to mark the commemoration of this year’s World Refugee Day, “the World Refugee Day is the day we pay tributes to the more than 15 million refugees among the world’s estimated 43 million people uprooted by conflicts and violence.”

The Federal Commissioner for Refugees, Nigeria, Hajiya Hadiza Sani Kangiwa said as at January this year, Nigeria’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) totalled 1million and 69 thousand.

“A total of 7,350 including those locally integrating are hosted in Nigeria, the number of returnees totalled 11,000 while those seeking asylum in the country stand at 2011. Nigeria’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) totalled one million and sixty nine thousand.”

She said the statistics show that the IDPs constitute the largest number of the displaced in Nigeria.

Mrs Gogo Huportie also said Just 5 years ago, more than a million refugees were able to return voluntarily to their homes. “Today, however, conflicts the world over have grown more resilient. In consequence, only a quarter as many refugees were able to return home last year. This represents the lowest level of return in two decades.  Inevitably, it means the world’s 15 million refugees will spend more time being refugees, as people who cannot go home. A greater majority of these refugees are in the developing world, increasingly in urban areas and hosted by communities which though often poor themselves, continue to welcome and support them.”

She said the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) worldwide rather than abate is unfortunately on the increase.

At the end of 2008, there were an estimated 26 million IDPs around the world and UNHCR was helping about 14.4 million of them in 22 countries, including the three with the largest IDP populations – Sudan, Colombia and Iraq.

Millions of other civilians who have been made homeless by natural disasters are also classified as IDPs. UNHCR is only involved with this group in exceptional circumstances, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and 2008’s Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

Ethiopia currently hosts some 135,000 refugees, mainly Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese.

She said the theme of this year’s celebration “They Took My Home But They Can’t Take My Future” assumes that though the refugees and internally displaced persons could have lost their homes, there is still hope for the future as they can be educated and empowered for instance, to have a good future.

According to her, we can’t talk about the future of refugees without giving them the means of livelihood to take care of themselves and sustain themselves in the country where they are.

She said:” We need to provide more support for education and other essential life skills so even if refugees have lost their homes, they haven’t lost their futures. Meeting their needs effectively will require dynamic partnerships and responses that will be community based because communities hosting refugees are often themselves deprived of resources. This, in addition to other durable solutions for refugees like repatriation, local integration and resettlement, will help give refugees a future.”

Hajiya Hadiza Sani Kangiwa on her part, urged everyone to reflect on the theme of this year’s World’s Refugee Day by embracing reconciliation and seeking meaningful ways in which we can move forward and build a better future

“All of us including our persons of concern must think of how to proffer safe and permanent solutions that will bring about lasting peace in our society as well as put an end to conflicts that create displacement in our society.

Though it is named World Refugee Day we should extend the message of solidarity to our IDPs throughout the world and Nigeria in particular,” she said

Colonel (Dr) Djibrine Ibrahim, a cardiology surgeon, who is the Secretary General of the Chadian Refugees Community in Nigeria, said refugees from Chad are appreciative of government’s hospitality and  efforts on their behalf but they still need more protection and assistance from the government  whether at the federal, state or local level

He also said as refugees and asylum seekers, they need help from humanitarian organizations and appealed to organizations like Unicef, IOM, UNDP, CICR, MSF, AREF, T. Y. Danjuma Foundation and Yakubu Gowon Foundation for assistance.

Other refugees from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Cameroon, Eritrea, Rwanda and  Burundi among others, said as they commemorate  the World Refugee Day, they are grateful to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the National Commission for Refugees (NCFR) for their enormous efforts in making their lives easier and made the following appeal especially those in Ogun state;

–    Skills acquisition programmes should be introduced for them since the Ogun state government cannot include refugees in her Vocational Training Scheme.

–    The idea that refugees should pay for their treatment before being refunded should be cancelled.

–    Micro finance activities should also be included to help both the male and female refugees become self reliant because in Ijebu- Ode, job opportunities are very limited.

–    Finally the durable solution of giving us a future is the most needed

Minister of Special Duties, Navy Captain Omoniyi Caleb Olubolade (rtd), said the Federal Government is fully committed to respecting and fulfilling the rights to which refugees are entitled to without discrimination.

He said together with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) the country has signed and begun the implementation of the multiparty agreement on local integration of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Nigeria.

The minister said under this framework Nigeria undertakes to grant residence permit to refugees who have voluntarily opted to locally integrate and for their countries to provide them with passports.

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