Refugee Commission seeks joint action on refugees, IDPs

Rahila Lassa, Abuja

UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs Angele Dikongue Atangana

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, has called for a stronger joint coordinated action on IDPs and human rights with the National Commission for Refugees in Nigeria, NCFR.

The UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs Angele Dikongue Atangana,  while on a working visit to the NCFR said “refugees status determination is a core mandate of the two Commissions and the prerogative of any host country to determine who enjoys refugees determination status in its country …the UNHCR can only give technical, expertise and financial help”.

Mrs Atangana stated that Nigeria being a country of over one hundred and seventy million people is capable of granting the determination status to a refugee of about five hundred asylum seekers in line with international best practices.

“The right for free movement by all humans including the refugees and asylum seekers, should be granted through the issuance of the Machine Readable Travel Documents replaced by the non-readable documents, by the host country as a right which came into force in November 2015 alongside an agreement to hold a minimum of four sessions for eligibility in a year, which Nigeria has however failed to deliver”, she said.

She however regretted delay by the Nigeria Immigration Service, to make the document available for everyone citizen.

She also advocated for a durable solution aimed at integrating refugees into local communities or voluntary repatriation to countries of origin which most refugees have enjoyed. She extolled Nigeria’s generosity for local integration of refugees into her communities especially those from the ECOWAS member states and from the Central African region.

Mrs Atangana noted that there is need for a framework to be put in place for legal, social and economic reasons as it concerns the refugees.

The UNHCR further called for a National Action Plan on Statelessness

“Statelessness is a worst scourge whereby somebody finds themselves in a situation in which they do not exist legally because no state, no country recognises them as being their national”

The UNHCR according to her, has the mandate to oversee the implementation of the relevant conventions

“The convention of 1954 on the status of stateless persons and the convention of 1961 on the reduction of statelessness”

These two conventions were ratified by Nigeria in 2011, however she lamented that there has not been any difference since the ratification.

“The process of the domestication of these two conventions is still pending”

On the case of IDPs especially in the North-east of Nigeria she said before now, the Commission had an office in Maiduguri, but it has been overtaken by insurgency which she said should be reopened, restated and re-established because there is more to be done by the Commission there in collaboration with the UNHCR and other stakeholders. Finally, she advocated for the domestication of the Kampala convention which is still hanging since 2012.