Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State on Monday signed the declaration of the state as one of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) “#CitiesWithRefugees”.
The governor signed the document during the 2022 World Refugee Day Symposium in Lagos, organised by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), in collaboration with UNHCR.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the #CitiesWithRefugees initiative was launched by UNHCR globally on the side-lines of World Refugee Day in 2018.
It has brought together more than 280 cities in over 40 countries to call for more local authorities to welcome and include refugees in their communities.
NAN also reports that World Refugee Day is marked yearly on June 20 to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Whoever, Wherever, Whenever, Everyone Has The Right To Seek Safety”.
It is a day when the global community collectively rallies round refugees to show empathy and understanding for their plight.
Delivering his speech, the governor said that his administration would continue to create the space and ambience for refugees, no matter their beliefs or where they come from.
He said that the state would not make refugees and asylum seekers uncomfortable, as the government would ensure fairness and equity in handling them.
According to him, Lagos State has the most significant urban refugee caseload in Nigeria, because it provides a welcoming environment where they can thrive and become self-reliant.
“All that refugees are requesting is an opportunity and a space in the room. Once they are given social protection, they will indeed blossom and be willing to contribute their quota in a safe and secure manner,” Sanwo-Olu said.
In her remarks, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, Federal Commissioner, NCFRMI, said that Nigeria is presently host to over 84,000 refugees and asylum seekers, with Cross River alone hosting about 41,000 of them.
According to Sulaiman-Ibrahim, most of the refugees reside in Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Taraba, Benue, Lagos, Kano and Borno, while there are about 320,000 Nigerian Refugees spread into Niger, Chad and Cameroon Republics.
“In the face of increasing daily influx of asylum-seeking migrants from the West African sub-region, particularly from Cameroon, due to the separatist political crisis in her southern part, Nigeria has put in place robust protection regime for our Persons of Concern (PoC).
“Nigeria has one of the best hospitable environments for refugees to operate in.
”In collaboration with the UNHCR, we have continued to double up efforts in ensuring the rehabilitation and reassurance of refugee’s security, healthcare, education, livelihood support and durable solutions,” Sulaiman-Ibrahim.
She added that the signing of the declaration of Lagos as #CitiesWithRefugees by Sanwo-Olu was a defining moment with global significance, as it underscored the place of refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and other PoCs in his heart.
“Lagos has always been and particularly under the current leadership, has created inclusiveness and promoted hope for refugees and PoCs through favourable policies in the areas of education, health and social services,” Sulaiman-Ibrahim said.
On her part, UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Ms Chansa Kapaya noted that welcoming refugees creates opportunities for economic, civic and social growth.
This, she said is because the diversity of ideas and experiences refugees bring spur creativity and innovation.
She stressed that in spite of the unimaginable sacrifices refugees make upon safety, many keep their hopes and dreams for the future alive.
“Their contributions don’t just change communities but also change the world and today, we are asking people to remember the importance of welcoming new comers into their communities.
“They are determined despite being displaced and dispossessed. Their will to survive and relentless strive to improve their lives are not easily extinguished by adversity.
“We can do more to reach more refugees but resources are limited and there, we need your help,” she said.
NAN reports that in Nigeria, the cities that have signed the #WithRefugees pledge include FCT, Calabar, Ogoja and Lagos. (NAN)