Nigeria + 1 more

UN refugee commission closes Nigerian camp

Abuja_(dpa) _ The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) closed its camp in Oru, Ogun State, south-west Nigeria, on Sunday with the repatriation of the last 86 Liberians from the camp.

The camp commandant, Lawrence Yegwa, said the 86 had "registered for repatriation."

Other refugees in the camp not on return trips to their countries have the choice of either integration in Nigeria or resettlement in a third country of their choice.

The chairman of the Liberia Refugees Welfare Council, Sarwee Nimely, however, faulted the repatriation arrangements.

"Those returning to Liberia opted to go away only because of the decision by the UNHCR to close the camp," he said.

"It is not as if they are willing to return home yet," Nimely added.

"You can imagine, the UNHCR provided a mere 23.4 dollars to each of the returnees, with which to settle at home, without any other items," he lamented.

Nimely recalled that when some Liberians were repatriated from the camp in 1998, they got 125 dollars each, in addition to household goods like cloths, plates and mats.

The closure of the camp was initiated by the UNHCR, but the Nigerian Council for Refugees, a government agency and the African Refugees Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, were still executing some programmes for the permanent settlement of some of the refugees.

Yegwa said Liberian refugees who were no longer in the camp had up to the end of July to register, either for integration within Nigeria or to be resettled in a third country of their choice.

The winding down of the camp had been a gradual process, starting with the alleged withdrawal last year of the supply of essential services like healthcare and food rations by the UNHCR to the camp.

Thirty-four-year-old Liberian Stephen Mambu, who came to the camp in 1995 and is now a graduate of Chemical Engineering from a Nigerian university, pleaded with the Nigerian government not to leave the refugees to their fate by just sending them out of the Oru camp where many had lived for over a decade.

"You see, there is no place like home, but the truth is that there is no peace in Liberia yet. Sectarian killings and guerrilla warfare are still going on in our country, so we are not safe yet," he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

He said there were also many young Liberian refugees studying at Nigerian universities at their own expense.

"If they leave Nigeria now, that means termination of their studies," and there would be no guarantee they could continue when they returned to Liberia, he lamented.

Another refugee, Reverend Solonteh Parker, faulted the closure of the camp by the UNHCR.

He argued that some of the refugees were carrying identification cards that permitted them to stay till August 2008 or October 2009.

He alleged that the UNHCR had already stopped supplying food rations and other amenities last October.

The chairman of the African Refugees Foundation, Segun Olusola, also appealed to the Nigerian government to support efforts toward rehabilitating Liberian refugees who chose not to return to Liberia.

"There should be special arrangements made for those people, and even those Nigerians who are internally displaced persons," Olusola said.

He appealed to the Nigerian government to take special interest in providing them assistance and succour.

The camp was opened in 1990 at the height of a civil war in Liberia in which millions were killed and several others displaced from their homes.

Until Saturday, the camp was home to an estimated 1,500 refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia. dpa ah gma


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