By Kingsley Agim, Calabar
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has lauded the Ayade-led Government of Cross River State for its support towards ameliorating the plight of refugees in the State.
UNHCR’s Senior Protection Officer, Ntampaka Clarisse, gave the commendation at the World Refugee Day, held 20th June, 2019, at the Conference Hall of Channel View Hotel, Calabar.
“We want to thank the Government of Cross River State for all the support. We also want to recognize and thank the host communities who opened their hearts and homes to the refugees. We want to thank the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for working with us, and the Federal Government’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), and our partners, UNICEF, Fhi 360, CUSO, Mediatrix Foundation, line ministries, etc, for the great work,” Clarisse remarked.
The UNHCR Representative said the “World Refugee Day is a moment during the year to reflect on the fact that millions of families are living far from their homes, leaving everything behind- because of war or persecution.”
Speaking further, Clarisse noted that Nigeria is presently hosting over 36, 000 Cameroonian refugees in Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River State and Taraba; meanwhile Cross River State alone hosts over 27,000 Cameroonian refugees, making it approximately 75 percent of the refugees in Nigeria.
The UNHCR Representative pointed out that local authorities and host communities in Cross River State have been exemplary in their support to refugees in their communities; and the World Refugee Day is an opportunity to appreciate the efforts of host communities and the Federal Government of Nigeria in welcoming and assisting Cameroonian refugees.
According to UNHCR, an estimated 70 million people are refugees, or have been displaced by violence in their own countries, and every region of the world is impacted in some way and today a volatile mix of political, environmental, economic, ethnic, and territorial factors often combine to ignite conflicts.
She said that though the UNHCR and it’s partners are on ground, helping to provide shelter, food, clean water, and medical care, yet it is the people in local communities who give so much – sometimes over many years, adding that such solidarity/hospitality is essential and does inspire the conviction that people can thrive together.
Talking on the theme for this year’s World Refugee Day ‘Step With Refugees’, Clarisse stated that no step is too small, challenging people from all walks of life to unite in their efforts to choose inclusion over exclusion and see the need for integration of refugees as assets and not burden to the society.
She maintained that the spirit of participation and shared responsibility enshrined in the UN Global Compact on Refugees, marks a new era of international cooperation and provides a blueprint for better responses; not only humanitarian emergency responses, but also in terms of development to ensure longer term stability in all regions.
Concluding, on behalf of the High Commissioner, the UNHCR Representative stated: “we appreciate your contribution, collaboration and support in the response to the Cameroon refugee situation.”
Also speaking, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Mr. Innocent Efoghe, stated that recently, Nigeria has witnessed an influx of asylum seekers and refuges from countries such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Syria, Turkey, Eritrea, among others.
He further revealed that over 35, 000 Cameroonian refugees have been granted Temporary Protection Status (TPS) in Nigeria, in addition to 261 urban refugees and 290 asylum seekers living in other parts of the country.
Mr. Efoghe noted that with the support of the Presidency, his Commission has succeeded in the distribution of various food, non-food items, educational packs, water sanitation, shelter materials, agricultural input, and medical care; trained and retrained refugees on various skills acquisition; improved accommodation and helped refugees settled with their host communities; fight for their rights to safety, dignity and long-term livelihood empowerment scheme; enrolled refugees into the National health Insurance Scheme; provided variety of life-saving assistace, safety and protection; and durable solution.
He assured that NCFRMI will continue to collaborate with UNHCR and other relevant agencies to ensure improved livelihood for refugees in Nigeria.
Each year on June 20, the United Nations, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and countless civic groups around the world host Refugee Day events in order to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution.
In his remarks, the Acting Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (CRS-SEMA) Mr. Princewill Ayim called on well meaning Nigerians to take a step and eschew discrimination against refugees.
Mr. Ayim said the World Refugee Day “is to help us create awareness, to use this opportunity to encourage donors who are inspired to assist and support Government in making sure that the refugees are taken care of.
“We came out here to stand with the refugees to create awareness, we don’t discriminate against refugees in Cross River State.
“As we mark today to show solidarity; to show what the refugees are suffering which symbolises the effort of their perseverance, we hereby solicit that the refugees abide by the law of the land and remain peaceful.” he added.
The SEMA boss highlighted few challenges encountered by refugees which includes “identification, economic and security difficulties”, but assured that those issues will be solved in due course.
Articulating her view, the Director of Orientation, Ministry of Information and Orientation, Mrs. Roseline Irek, reiterated that the society will be a better place for everyone if discrimination against refugees is reduced to the barest minimum, adding that it is a collective responsibility by all and sundry.
High points of the event featured solidarity walk by stakeholders, and eventful ceremony at Channel View Hotel.
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