The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, on Wednesday said that it would not continue to provide refugees in Nigeria with financial assistance.
UNHCR’s new Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Antonio Canhandula, made the assertion in Lagos while interacting with some refugees from Chad, Sudan, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
According to him, what refugees in Nigeria need is protection, and not continuous assistance from the Nigerian Government and UNHCR.
“I am in Lagos as part of my maiden visit to our Lagos Office, for me to discuss with you refugees on how to provide solutions to your challenges.
“We really want you to know that being a refugee is not a satisfactory situation. As refugees, what you need is protection and not continuous assistance.
“We cannot continue to discuss how to give you money for food, accommodation and children’s education.
“You all have to get out of the mentality of continuously getting financial support from UNHCR. Our support is ineffective,” he said.
Mr. Canhandula said that the Commission would discuss with the Nigerian Government and Community leaders on to the need to accept enterprising refugees.
He also said that UNHCR was prepared to build capacities of refugees to become self-employed, and be able to cater for their personal and family needs.
“We now really need to know your plans to leave the life of being a refugee, to that of meaningfully engaging yourselves,” Mr. Canhandula said.
A refugee from Chad, Didier Goursam, who commended the Nigerian Government and UNHCR for supporting them, said that many of the refugees had been depending on assistance.
Mr. Goursam said that some of the refugees were often discriminated against by their host communities, whenever they tried to get jobs.
He said that even with the assistance from the Nigerian government and UNHCR, many of the refugees were unable to feed themselves, accommodate and pay their children’s school fees.
A Sudanese refugee, Paul Koku, who had been living in Lagos since 1992, said that he had a business when he first came to Nigeria.
Mr. Koku said that he had, however, been depending on the assistance from UNHCR, since going out of business some years ago.