Last Monday, June 20,2016, the international community observed the World Refugee Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations General Assembly to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution.
There is no doubt that the world is now facing a monumental refugee crisis never seen in human history. According to the latest United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report, more than 65 million people have fled their homes for other countries or still living within as Internally Displaced Persons. The 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, describe them as those who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, are outside the country of their nationality, and are unable to, or owing to such fear, are unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.”
Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, the UNHCR noted that one in every 113 persons on the planet is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. According to it, countries with the highest number of refugees include Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.
Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees reported that more than 130,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Africa and Middle East to Europe in the first two months of this year, more than the total in the first half of 2015. It is a fact that refugees suffer untold hardship in the respective camps or localities where they are being hosted or found themselves; they mostly lack the three basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.
Most lose their lives to deadly diseases, or hazards in the local environment. Here in Nigeria, issues of internally displaced persons have been at the front burner of national discourse for long. These Nigerians have been forced to flee their homes due to Boko Haram attacks. At last count, more than four million Nigerians are documented as internally displaced persons, even as another 100,000 are living outside the country as refugees.
It is therefore imperative that the authorities take action in ameliorating the misery of the growing numbers of Nigerians who have been forced to migrate and become refugees in neighbouring countries or internally displaced persons within the country. There is nothing as destabilising as being forced out of one’s home and community and becoming very dependent of others for help.
Sadly, Nigeria has the dubious distinction of being the third worst country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world. Recently, the UNICEF identified six major drivers of population movements in Nigeria leading to an increased need for humanitarian aid. They are insurgency, communal conflicts, natural disasters, environmental degradation, poverty and electoral violence. The IDPs from the Boko Haram insurgency and inter-communal conflicts continue to grow partly because nothing is done to address their long-term needs.
These internally displaced persons live a life of misery after being uprooted from their homes and livelihoods. Therefore, we are calling on the government to tackle those factors responsible for making Nigerians refugees in their own country. This way, Nigeria would have contributed immensely towards stemming the flow of international refugees.