The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged the Federal Government to reinforce its support for refugees and include them in planning for the country.
Mr. Ephraim Kabura, Head of Field Office, UNHCR, Lagos State, stated this at a programme to commemorate World Refugee Day on Tuesday at TBS, Onikan, Lagos.
The programme was organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Lagos office, in collaboration with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).
Recall that the theme for 2023 World Refugee Day is: “Hope Away from Home. A World Where Refugees are Always Included”.
World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe.
Kabura said that including refugees in the communities where they had found safety was the most effective way to help them restart their lives and contribute to the countries hosting them.
According to him, in the zone of coverage in the UN field office in Lagos state, there are about 4,500 refugees and asylum seekers in the Southwest.
He stressed that in today’s divided world, long-term solutions for people forced to flee remain pitifully scarce, leaving many of the world’s 35 million refugees in limbo.
He said that it was also an opportunity to celebrate the Lagos State public and private sector partners as well as donors who had been responsive to the plight of refugees.
Kabura said that to mark this year’s theme, refugee leaders in collaboration with the UNHCR Lagos office and its partners have designed a talent show and livelihood exhibition to showcase potential among persons forced to flee and to seek their inclusion in the national system.
“On world refugee day, we honour the courage and hopes of the millions of people forced to flee war, violence, and persecution
“We are using this event to highlight to the rest of the world that we can and must do more to offer such hope, opportunities, and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context.
“Including refugees in the communities where they have found safety is the most effective way to help them restart their lives and contribute to the countries hosting them.
“In real terms, this means ensuring that refugees can apply for jobs, enroll in schools, and access services like housing and health care.
“It also means fostering a sense of belonging and welcome that gives hope to refugees uprooted from their homes,” he said.
Kabura noted that Nigeria alone could not provide for refugees adding that the international community must provide financial resources to sustain the tempo and surpass it.
“At UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, we know that inclusion is the best way to support refugees in exile, to prepare them so they can help rebuild their countries when conditions allow them to return, or to thrive if they are resettled to another country.
“But Nigeria as a host country cannot do it on its own.
“The rest of the international community must step up and provide the financial resources to enable such progressive policies.
“We have seen enormous progress in this area over the past years, with outstanding donor generosity, innovative approaches to financing, and huge investments by the World Bank, regional development banks, and other international financial institutions.
“But clearly, more must be done. It is time for us all to commit to including refugees in our communities at all levels in our schools, workplaces, healthcare systems, and beyond.
“We must also acknowledge the challenges facing host countries in a world short on peace. More often than none, it is border communities that continue to receive and host people fleeing the violence.
“Unfortunately, in today’s divided world, long-term solutions for people forced to flee remain pitifully scarce, leaving many of the world’s 35 million refugees in limbo.
Also, Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner called on leaders to live up to their responsibility to broker peace and stop violence so that refugees can return home safely and voluntarily.
Grandi, who was represented by Kabura, urged governments to increase resettlement opportunities for refugees desperately in need.
He also urged state government to embrace policies that harness the enormous potential refugees have, to contribute to the social, economic, and political life of their host countries.
Grandi said that UNHCR was using the event to highlight to the rest of the world that the world can and must do more to offer such hope, opportunities and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context.
“We know too well the cost of inaction: a world with the highest forced displacement in recorded history. We cannot let this continue,” he said.
Mrs Ola Erifolami, Deputy Director, (NCFRMI), South-West Zone, said that the commission would continue to provide assistance and support for refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons.
She noted that the Federal government would continue to responsible to take care of their welfare, vocational and empowerment training, and grant.
“We are very passionate about all our refugee, their protection and security is paramount to us.
“We have a lot of programme for them in place, durable solutions either to locally integrate in Nigeria or voluntary repatriation back home or resettlement to our countries,” she said.
A refugee, Mrs Dede Bugibabu, Chairlady, Congolese Community in Ijebu-Ode, urged the Federal Government to provide education, housing, empowerment, and healthcare for refugees.
Bugibabu, 48 years old, commended the Federal Government for its continuous support and called for more intervention to help refugees resettle in the country.
“I thank the Nigerian government for their support since I got to this country in 2011. I cannot go back to my country because of the war. I teach the French language in some private schools to make a living because I like teaching.
“The situation is very hard now, the present economy challenges are affecting us and I don’t earn enough money to pay my bills and accommodation,” she said.
Another refugee from Congo, Mr Martins Mbuilama, urged the government to help improve the living conditions of refugees adding that many are struggling to survive.
The event featured a talent show, dance, cultural display, and exhibition.