Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says that it has intensified efforts in the screening of refugees coming into Nigeria.
The UNHCR also announced that it has established isolation facilities at border and entry points into the country in the event that there is a suspected case of COVID-19.
UNHCR Country Representative Ms Chansa Kapaya, speaking at a press conference in Abuja heralding the World Refugee Day, disclosed that at the start of the pandemic the Commission stepped-up prevention and response mechanisms.
Kapaya said that part of the mechanisms was the establishment of water and sanitation and health committees, including mounting education campaigns, in communities where the UNHCR carried out its work.
She also said the agency established a water platform for refugees where they could share information on how to protect themselves against the pandemic.
‘We are supporting the areas where refugees have been established in the southeast by supporting public health institutions and renovations so that they could have isolation facilities, [and are] providing medical equipment, testing kits, providing PPE, masks, hand sanitisers to the partners and other community workers. So, basically, what we have done is to try to step up prevention of COVID-19,’ Kapaya said.
‘At the border, entry points, we are supporting the Nigerian Immigration Service by ensuring that we have people to screen anybody who is crossing, temperature testing and establishment of some isolation facilities in the event that there is a suspected case of COVID-19.’
Kapaya expressed gratitude to the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in ensuring that the areas continued to be safe for people of concern.
Earlier, Kapaya said in Nigeria, the persons of concern to the UNHCR include 2,045,000 internally displaced persons in the northeast out of which 1.8 million were in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
Other areas of concern for the UNHCR, according to Kapaya, include 57,800 Cameroonian refugees in the southeast, 2,340 urban refugees and 1,122 asylum seekers in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, and Kano states.
Kapaya added that, over the past few years, there has been an escalation of conflict in the Lake Chad region with cross-border activities of Boko Haram, which has led to the displacement of many in North-East Nigeria and the far northern region of Cameroon.
‘Consequently, 292,141 Nigerian refugees have sought asylum in Niger, Cameroon and Chad,’ Kapaya added.
On her part, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the Federal Government will ensure continuous safety and well-being of refugees in the country.
‘Let me assure you that the protection of refugees and other vulnerable groups is among the top priorities of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and as a ministry mandated to coordinate all humanitarian issues, we will continue to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees in Nigeria,’ Farouq said.
Farouq also called on the international community to show commitment in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees which, she said, has provided a veritable guide towards addressing the protection of refugees issues.