Nigeria: Oru Stranded Refugees — We Have Been Abandoned

Published: 21/Feb/2016
Source: The Guardian (Abuja)

By Gbenga Akinfenwa

EIGHT years after the Oru Refugee camp, Ogun State, was officially closed down, hundreds of the Liberian and Sierra-Leonean stranded refugees have alleged abandonment by the authorities, to face the hard side of life.

Situated in Ijebu North Local Government Area of the state, the camp was opened in 1990 following the civil wars, which ravaged both African countries, causing a dislocation that forced many to flee.

Thousands of the refugees were encamped at the Oru boarding facility, but between June 30, 2007, when the camp was officially closed and now, only 500 stayed back, majority of whom are Liberian nationals.

For the 17 years the camp remained open, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR), Federal Government, non-governmental organisations and charitable individuals, had catered adequately for the refugees. But now, life has become unbearable for them. Since the closure of the camp, the goodwill has dried up, leaving those in camp in serious predicament, no food and no befitting shelter, coupled with non-availability of essential services. Their appearances say it all. Though they manage to smile and look friendly, deep inside them all is not well. They betray hopeless and frustration.

As at the time of the closure, there was an agreement between government, the National Commission for Refugee (NCR), the UNCHR and the refugees. They were given options of either-repatriation, exemption or integration into a community that had hosted them for 17 years.

Repatriation is for those who came to Nigeria and indicated interest to return home. Those who took exemption were those who indicated interest not to return to their country and as well not to stay in Nigeria, but apply to stay in any other country, while those who asked for local integration were refugees who wanted to be absorbed within the local community in Nigeria.

The Guardian learnt that 99 per cent of Sierra-Leoneans who opted for repatriation went back home through the UN. About 300 refugees opted for local integration and were offered N75, 000 per family and international passports, without meeting other conditions as stipulated in the Work Plan for Local Integration. Others in the camp are those who sought the exemption option, but were not offered accommodation in countries of their choice.

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Themes: Nationality and Refugees
Regions: Nigeria
Year: 2016