Refugees and asylum seekers in Nigeria
In 2017 Nigeria witnessed a major influx of refugees from Cameroon into its South-South and Middle Belt regions triggering the declaration of an L2 emergency. This new caseload is in addition to the already existing caseload of about 2,500 urban refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly based in Lagos. Additionally, it is expected that Nigeria will continue to receive refugees, and, with there being no political solution in sight in Cameroon, it is expected that the bulk of these will be Cameroonians. The priorities UNHCR has chosen for 2019 will attempt to respond to the needs of both of these different groups. The newer situation being more rural in nature (but by no means exclusively so) and the older situation being more urban and of a protracted nature, the needs and degrees of vulnerability are not always the same. UNHCR Nigeria will prioritize efforts to sustain positive gains of protection environment through results oriented engagement with authorities and other stakeholders that will ensure:
- Persons of concern can safely access asylum with minimal risk of refoulement, and their applications are fairly and expeditiously determined in accordance with relevant international standards.
- Registration of newly arriving Cameroonian refuges and provision of documentation to enhance legal protection.
- Protection and border monitoring is established/strengthened within host communities with referrals/response mechanisms for SGBV cases, UASC, other groups with specific needs
- Detention visits/monitoring to mitigate risks of refoulement and respect for human right
- Capacity building/trainings for authorities NIS, NCFRMI, State Emergency Management Agency and other relevant national personnel should continue to ensure that asylum-seekers’ rights are fully respected.
- Provision of food and core relief items to new arrivals and in locations where food security situation is dire.
- Provision of assistance for transitional/long term shelter needs with WASH facilities that meet minimum standards
- Provision of medical assistance either directly in host communities or assist the already overburdened healthcare facilities in and around the receiving communities.
- Provision of premium for the health insurance scheme for urban refugees
- Implemented targeted vocational trainings and provide start up kits
- Provide allowance to facilitate enrollment of refugee children in primary schools and support to schools to scale up absorption capacity
- Comprehensive durable solutions strategy is developed and implemented which will minimize the risk of protracted refugee situations and manage refugees’ expectations.
The Cameroonian refugee operation continued to receive a significant number of new arrivals, during the reporting period. By the end of 2019, the figure of registered new arrivals stood at 14,807. During the reporting period, none of the three durable solutions were pursued, due to the continued emergency nature of the operation. In line with the UNHCR’s strategic direction, border monitoring was strengthened, with 855 border monitoring missions conducted. No case of refoulement was officially recorded, although most refugees crossed through illegal crossing points. Freedom of movement was enjoyed by refugees, with minimum challenges, such as lack of identity cards. However, no individual was arrested due to his/her legal status as a refugee.
Standard operating procedures were successfully completed for case management on child protection and sexual and gender-based violence and were being operationalised. UNHCR and partners identified 489 sexual and gender-based violence cases, and they all received assistance.
In accordance with the strategic direction on assistance, 28,901 refugees received food assistance through cash-based interventions. A total of 5,293 individuals received core relief items.
Regarding health assistance, UNHCR ensured the availability of health insurance for refugees and strengthened local health facilities to provide services to refugees and host communities. In this regard, 20,000 refugees, including urban refugees, were enrolled in the health insurance scheme. UNHCR supported the rehabilitation and construction of four primary health care facilities, while 13 facilities received essential equipment and consumables to improve service delivery.
A total of 1,882 transitional shelters were constructed by refugees through support, including shelter kits and cash.
On WASH, a total of 16 motorized boreholes were dug in the settlements, host communities and schools.
For livelihoods, out of 2,290 individuals targeted, a total of 1,078 individuals (47%) had access to arable land, both in the settlement and in the host communities of Benue and Cross River States. A total of 445 refugees were self-employed in non-agricultural activities. It is worth mentioning that the Benue and Cross State Governments each provided 100 hectares of agricultural land for the refugees. For urban refugees, the Lagos State Government, through the Lagos State Employment Trust fund (LSETF), provided 30 LSETF applications slots for refugees, which will qualify them to participate in the employment programme of LSETF in 2020.
The scheme will provide skill trainings and job placement as well as provision of starter packs and markets for their products. By the end of 2019, a private University in Lagos State -ENACTUS Covenant University - committed to provide training on Eco bag and assistance with start-up raw materials and provision of market for finished product (eco bag). This was scheduled to start in 2020. With these new programmes in place, more refugees will be assisted and with viable livelihood, subsequently.
UNHCR, in collaboration with the National Commission for Refugees, ensured the delivery of 1,078 refugee identity cards (576) and attestation (502) to urban refugees in a timely manner. This significantly reduced incidents of arrests and detention of refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR also continued to support the capacity-building of actors through trainings, including a thematic training session on exclusion assessment as well as facilitating participation of key policy level officials in protection trainings.
The operation is unique due to the vast area hosting refugees, cutting across three States, versus the limited resources available. Due to funding constraints, the population residing outside the settlements did not benefit from UNHCR’s required service/assistance delivery, as almost all the activities and attention had been focused on those residing in the settlements. The operation needs to continue and broaden its engagement and support the Government to reduce the gap in crucial sectors like Livelihood, WASH, Education and Shelter. The vision of linking humanitarian and development actors in the areas outside the settlement should be maintained during 2020. The policy of not establishing another settlement required further clarity, since many of the new arrivals were staying in the settlements in existing hangars located in public areas. Training for specialized agencies dealing with specific case management was not met.