The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has said there are about 2.9 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and 70,000 refugees are in Nigeria.
Roland Schoenbauer, UNHCR’s Senior External Relations Officer, and the agency’s Communications Officer, Gabriel Adeyemo, gave the figures on Wednesday during their visit to The Nation newspaper’s head office in Lagos.
An IDP is an individual who is forced to leave his or her home but remains within the country.
Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another jurisdiction.
The officials commended Nigeria for its generosity towards refugees, noting that the country treats them as its citizens.
Schoenbauer said registered refugees in Nigeria have the liberty to move about, work, educate their children and seek healthcare than those in many parts of Europe.
He, however, lamented that rich nations have little interest in supporting the agency’s work in Nigeria.
He expressed satisfaction at “the generousity that we see in Nigeria”.
“I’ve been around and I think I can compare different countries. It was not difficult to get land for those settlements from the authorities. UNHCR doesn’t have land anywhere in the world, we depend on the countries that receive refugees and so we collaborate.
“But the generosity didn’t end there. It’s commendable that in Nigeria, refugee children can go to normal schools. They are not kept away from school like in other countries; they’re not put in ghetto schools, where people say ‘you won’t be able to learn with our children’. No.
“The same for the primary healthcare centres; refugees can go there. If they have appendicitis, they go there like a Nigerian would go there and yes, UNHCR supports the authorities in both areas. We have built schools and expanded the health facilities for COVID-19”, he said.
He described it as a “spirit of inclusion”.
“In Europe, you have states, countries that would even limit in a small jurisdiction within which refugees can move, which is not very practicable because if a business opportunity for the refugee lies five kilometres beyond, he at least commits an administrative offence if he goes there,” Schoenbauer added.
He urged countries to be more generous, adding that, “Nigeria needs more support and we are a bit disappointed by the rich countries that so little is coming in terms of support for the refugee support. But there are good exceptions – the United States government is a champion in supporting our work, France is supporting our work, particularly on the IDP side. Japan is coming in more and more. So, there are a few exceptions. Germany, Canada and Belgium also. The UK is active in the region.”
He lamented that the country’s IDPs, such as the ones in Dikwa and Damasak, both in Borno State, are living in “dreadful” conditions.