By Yusuf Zango
Nairobi — No fewer than 73,400 African refugees were given right to citizenship by their host countries in 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) has said.
Mr Valentine Tabsoba, Director, UNCHR Regional Bureau for Africa disclosed this at the opening of 6th African Union Annual Humanitarian Symposium holding in Nairobi Kenya.
He said this was a significant improvement from the 23,000 refugees given the citizenship in 2016.
“This also reflects a strong spirit of solidarity and responsibility sharing,” he said adding that Guinea Bissau and Zambia took the lead in this gesture.
However, he said, Africa still host 6.3 million refugees and asylum seekers while more than 14.5 million people were displaced within their own countries and another estimated one million people were categorised as stateless persons on the continent.
Tabsoba said the plight of the displaced and those at risk of displacement was further compounded by democratic shifts, urbanization, mixed populations movements and effects of climate change.
The Director welcomed the decision of the Heads of State of the African Union to declare 2019 as AU Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, and pledged his organisation’s readiness to work with the union to achieve its objectives.
He said although governments were striving to address the root causes, providing protection and finding durable solutions for the displaced there was the need for programs and actions take a “whole society approach”.
This, he said would require the involvement of key stakeholders including development agencies, international financial institutions, faith-based organisations, academia and civil society organisations.
“The most effective and impactful commemorative activities will certainly be those that are entrenched and supported by host communities and speak directly to the plight of the displaced persons,” Tapsoba said.
Also speaking Professor Maya Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa, called on African leaders to urgently address the issue of rejection and isolation of African refugees and migrants.
She also called for an urgent solution to issues of climate change, gender violence and security to alleviate the sufferings of the displaced people in the continent.
Mr Olabisi Dare, Head, Humanitarian and Displaced Persons Division at the AU, said the symposium would chart a roadmap on the theme of the AU Year, which is “Towards durable solutions for forced displacements in Africa”.
He said the meeting would also deliberate on response to emergencies in Africa and progress made in the setting up of African Humanitarian Agency.