World Refuge Day 2015
World Refugee Day 2015
20 June 2015
Today is the World Refugee [and Internally Displaced Persons, IDP] Day. A day set aside every year to among other things, raise awareness on the plight of displaced persons who are forced by crises to leave their homes and homelands in order to save their lives. Most of these are as a result of conflicts caused by bad politics and exacerbated by poor governance at different levels; including failures of the international community. Presently, most displacements are as a result of terrorism, which as the records show is a form of oppressive politics foisting terror on the rest of us.
Globally according to UN statistics, there are 19.5 million refugees, 38.2 IDPs, and 1.8 million citizens seeking asylum–60 million displaced persons; that is 1 out of every 122 people on earth. Of these, half are children. This is a disaster, and should be seen and treated as such.
In Nigeria, precisely the northeast which has been worst hit by terrorists insurgency, Liz Ahua, the Regional Representative for West Africa to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says there are 1.4 million citizens displaced. These are currently mainly in refugee camps in Cameroon, Chad and Niger; and various IDP camps and settlements in Nigeria. She further states that 5.4 million citizens are traumatised indirectly as a result. Available records reveal that 49 071 of our citizens are in Moukola, Cameroon; 16 781 in Lagos state, and 16 798 in Abuja and Nasarawa state. This information grim as it is does not tell the complete story, as we know first hand that there are many unreported and undocumented cases. The scale of this humanitarian tragedy is monumental and heartrending. Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC describes the humanitarian crises in the northeast as “one of the worst in the world”. Just yesterday, Friday 19 June, the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance, Mr Christos Stylianides expressed to us at our daily sit-out at Unity Fountain, Abuja that the scale of humanitarian crisis he saw in Yola was “beyond shocking and unexpected.”
In the past weeks, our fellow citizens–refugees and IDPs–having gotten word from our government of reclaimed territories attempted returning home but have been confronted with devastation at home that they cannot cope with on their own. Some are even faced with death either from terrorists carrying out hit-and-run attacks, and/or by landmines earlier planted. These have been forced by the circumstances to return to the camps/settlements as refugees or IDPs. It is of utmost importance to systematically rehabilitate, resettle, and reintegrate those whose homelands are safe, and are willing to go back home, as we have repeatedly stated. Our citizens who are refugees are feeling ostracised in the countries that they are in. They are afraid of coming home, being scared of the terrorists and ironically the Nigerian military.
NEMA, the National Emergency Management Agency and the respective state emergency management agencies, SEMAs have been lacking in their duties. Both deliberately turn a blind eye to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of our citizens–who being forced by threat of death and humanitarian crises have been forced to leave home–by using technicalities in dichotomising between what they define to be “camps” and “settlements”; refusing to cater to the needs of those in the latter. This is reprehensible and must be discontinued forthwith. Even the so-called camps are schools where these are living in sub-human conditions. The corollary is that schoolchildren cannot access their schools. This adds to the number of the already 10 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, the highest in the world.
432 days ago, 276 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted by terrorists. 57 escaped of their own, these have not all been properly taken care of. The Borno state government and the federal government cannot authoritatively give an account of each of these survivors. This is unfortunate and beyond tragic! Of our 219 missing girls, again we ask, WHERE ARE OUR GIRLS?!
A. An urgent assessment to ascertain the precise numbers and locations of all our displaced citizens;
B. A more effective coordination of emergency humanitarian efforts by the responsible agencies whose duty it is to cater to these;
C. Effective management, accountability and transparency in the affairs of the Victims Support Funds and Safe Schools Initiative;
D. More trained trauma counsellors for psychosocial support and other stress related disorders.
Again, we enquire and demand to know state of being of the “over 1000 women and children” we had not been told were missing, (despite our repeated enquiries to the military and the government at all levels to confirm media reports of abductions) but who got rescued by our military two months or so ago. The military had said that they were yet to be identified, and were undergoing “profiling”. We ask, Have they all been identified, verified and authenticated, under rehabilitation and readied for resettlement and reintegration?
This year’s theme is “With courage let us combine”. This perfectly rhymes with our call for a concerted global synergy and coalition against terrorism, and other causes of unrest in our world today. Unfortunately and ironically, it appears that the terrorists who are bent on threatening our humanity and civilisation appear to be more coordinated. This should be a challenge to world leaders and citizens around the world.
We also task and encourage citizens to show care for our fellow citizens who are displaced, in all the various way we can.
By definition a refugee is one displaced from their home by crises and flees to another country. An IDP likewise displaced but flees yo a location within their country. Considering that we presently have more IDPs than refugees, it is important for this day to be named such that it reflects their plight. We therefore call on the UN to amend the UN General Assembly Resolution 55/76 of 4 December 2000, to more appropriately name this day the “World Refugee and IDP Day”.
This monumental-scale crisis we have demands not just mere words of commitment, but an urgent and well-articulated hands-on response led by our federal government with a strong and clear signal from our president that the life of the Nigerian is precious, and would henceforth be treated with utmost dignity.
Hadiza Bala Usman