By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA-The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee(UNHCR), has called for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers while on the move during their journey to, through or within Nigeria.
Following the protection issues that affects and could potentially affect persons in mixed flows, UNHCR Nigeria has developed a comprehensive asylum and migration strategy , which builds on the global UNHCR 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration and UNHCR Central Mediterranean Risk Mitigation Strategy.
Presently, Cameroon is hosting close to 94,000 Nigerians, Niger is also hosting about 100,000 while Chad is hosting about 18,000 Nigerian refugees, says UNHCR Deputy Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Brigitte Mukanga-Eno.
Mukanga-Eno who was speaking to Newsmen in Abuja on Thursday,at a Stakeholders meeting, “Towards an Asylum & Migration Strategy for UNHCR in Nigeria”,noted that the main area for UNHCR is trying to separate asylum seekers, to look at those who are asylum seekers among the migrants and give them the opportunity to seek for asylum in a legal manner which would lead to a proper relocation to other places where they can seek asylum.
She added, that the UNHCR is also looking at how to facilitate a number of programmes that would help the country in identifying the root causes of migration and try to tackle them already from home.
According to her, “There are young people who are moving because they don’t have economic opportunities, unemployment is also on the rise, so some program can help the young people in creating some businesses locally as what they are going to look for outside, is essentially means of living and if they can do it here, we think that it could remove that will of going to do it abroad, particularly for those who do not even have the basics to get visas and go and develop programmes and business outside.
“Even in Nigeria, we have foreigners who are refugees and asylum seekers and all of them are equally taking the same route of migration. It falls on all of us and the Government that has granted asylum to them and UNHCR to develop programmes for local integration for those who can develop their skills here in Nigeria, instead of taking the trip through the Mediterranean and Sahara deserts” she said.
She added that the African Union is working with the European Union, to improve on the legal migration. “Why can’t we organise proper ways for labour migration, instead of letting the young people, rejecting their request for visas and letting them take all these risky roads.
“There is an AU position on the migration but also, even at ECOWAS level, there are also a number of policies being put in place to create those legal migration opportunities for the young people”, Mukanga-Eno said.
Also, the President and founder of the Pan African Institute of Global Affairs and Strategy, Amb. Martin Uhomoibhi, noted that developing countries particularly Africa and Nigeria, are one of the greatest casualties of these irregular migration, adding that in 2016 alone, close to 9,000 people were lost going through the desert and the Mediterranean in search for greener pastures.
He further said that the stakeholders’ conference is timely, coming at a time where migration has become one of the three major global challenges facing nations and humanity as a whole, saying also that the bestiality to which the migrants are treated to while undertaking this migration to Europe cannot be allowed to continue.
“It has been tagged as modern day slavery and we want to stop this by all means possible and it can be ended through the commitment of nations and greater participation by countries looking for global multilateral solutions to these problems. It is not a national problem per se but a multilateral global challenge” he ended.
On her part, the Chairman, National Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said that the commission is the main beneficiary of mixed migration, as there are over 15 million Nigerians who willingly migrated.
The Chairman who was represented by the Secretary, Dr. Sule Bassi, said that the Commission’s mandate exists within those that willingly migrated from Nigeria. “We are a major player and this study here is very critical to our work as we start the Commission”.
While Presenting the UNHCR research study findings, a UNHCR Consultant, Prof. Aderanti Adepoju, stressed that the cost of documentation is the main reason for irregular migration, stating also that there is the need for Return Migrants to be given protection at international levels to curtail the extortion of money from them by travel agents.
In his recommendations, he said that there is the need to support data collection and provision of information sharing platforms for asylum seekers and refugees. In the area of Internally Displaced Persons, he called for strengthened support to provide documentation as well as advocacy for the protection of the IDPS.
In respect to Return Migrants, he emphasized the need to set up response across ECOWAS where people in need of international protection can make contact, and called on government to reform travel agencies.
“Travel Agencies are the major conduit of irregular Migration as they air bogus news. They should be stopped from airing provocative and untrue adverts that lure youths to engage in risky ventures. The Government should ensure that broadcasting corporations renew their responsibilities in monitoring these misleading adverts” he added.