Addressing Refugees’ Challenges

231

Last Thursday, humanity across the globe marked the annual World Refugee Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to remember the sufferings of refugees, with the theme: “Step With Refugees”.
The celebration comes at a time when, in every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, violent conflicts or terror.
Shockingly, while that event was taking place, the number of refugees had exceeded 70 million globally – the highest number in the UN Refugee Agency’s almost 70 years of operation. The almost 70.8 million people forcibly displaced are 2.3 million more than the 2018 figure of 68 million, the agency’s annual Global Trends report showed. The figure is also double the level recorded 20 years ago, and averaged out to about 37,000 new displacements every day.
Similarly, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have not crossed an international border but have been forced to move to places other than their homes, also increased to 41.3 million globally. Another staggering figure!
In his message to mark the day, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said, “Today, more than 70 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced as a result of war, conflict or persecution. That is equivalent to the population of the world’s 20th largest country. We must all think about what more we can do to help. The answer begins with unity and solidarity.
“I am deeply concerned to see more and more situations where refugees are not receiving the protection they need and to which they are entitled. We need to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime. In today’s world, no community or country providing safe refuge to people fleeing war or persecution should be alone and unsupported. We stand together, or we fail. As long as there are wars and persecution, there will be refugees. I ask you to remember them”, Guterres said.
The UN scribe’s remarks and the 2019 theme are an invocation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which provide that refugees deserve, as a minimum, the same standards of treatment enjoyed by other foreign nationals in a given country and, in many cases, the same treatment as nationals. These include the right not to be expelled, except under certain strictly defined conditions; the right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting state; the right to work; housing; education; public relief and assistance; freedom of religion; access to the courts; freedom of movement within the territory; and to be issued identity and travel documents.
These figures, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said “are further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution. While language around refugees and migrants is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees”, including those in Nigeria’s Cross River, Benue, Akwa Ibom and Taraba States, who are currently hosting over 36,000 Cameroonian refugees, with 75 per cent of them in Cross River.
While The Tide is alarmed by the large number of refugees across the world, we are particularly worried by the rising number of IDPs as a result of attacks by terrorists, bandits, herders, cultists, criminal gangs or communal conflicts arising from boundary disputes or chieftaincy tussles, in the North-East, North-West, North-Central, and other parts of Nigeria.
We share the concerns of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, who said that “over 7.1million persons in the North-East are in need of humanitarian assistance. In the North-East, 1.8million people are internally displaced in the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, with 80 per cent of them in Borno State. One in four IDPs is under the age of five and 80 per cent are women and children”. Even in Iba, Ogbakiri, Eteo, Kpean; Andoni, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Abua/Odual, Ahoada West, many IDPs are yet to return home to safe livelihood. Most of these IDPs have been faced into pathetic conditions, including vulnerability to rape, forced marriage, slave labour, taken hostage, conscripted as child-soldiers, suicide bombers, or their support wires taken away from them as orphans and widows. They need our care, solidarity and protection.
This year, a Global Compact on Refugees will be presented to the UN General Assembly, and it offers a way forward and recognizes the contributions that refugees make to the societies hosting them. We can key into that! Indeed, there are still enormous challenges with millions of IDPs and returnees continuing to live in crowded camps and lacking basic necessities which have led to serious protection challenges. We think that the provision of timely, enhanced and unhindered assistance, including adequate food, shelter, healthcare, water/sanitation and education is of paramount importance.
We, therefore, call for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to ensure that these basic needs are provided to alleviate the sufferings of IDPs as efforts to find durable solutions are also intensified. We believe that, this way, they can voluntarily return home in safety and dignity, when conditions are conducive for return or integrate into host communities or settle in an area of their choice.
The Tide reckons that most IDPs have lost their homes, livelihood, community support, family structure, safety and security, and are in need of lasting solutions to rebuild their lives. This is why we urge the humanitarian community to continue to support governments at all levels in the provision of protection and assistance as well as the search for durable solutions that guarantee peace, harmony and social order needed for inclusive living.
We are aware that around the world, communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life are taking big and small steps in solidarity with refugees. Their story has been one of resilience, perseverance and courage. Our governments can do more! Ours must be that of solidarity, compassion and action. We challenge everyone to join hands and take a step with refugees. Join the movement. Together, we can give hope to those who desperately need it and change the narrative for the better.