Albania said it was ready on Sunday to temporarily host hundreds of Afghan refugees bound for the United States, including women leaders, government officials and others in danger from the Taliban.
“NATO member Albania is ready to shoulder its share of the burden,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said on his facebook page on Sunday.
“Washington has already asked Albania to consider the possibility of serving as a transit country for a number of Afghan political immigrants whose final destination would be the United States,” he said.
Rama said Tirana had already received requests for Albania to provide refuge for “hundreds of people from intellectual circles and women activists. Afghan women on the Taliban execution lists”.
“We will not say ‘no’, and not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania,” Rama said.
The US, Britain and other Western countries are in a race against time to evacuate their own citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans who worked for them and fear reprisals by the Taliban.
Canada has also expressed its readiness to welcome more than 20,000 refugees.
At the request of the United States, in 2006, Albania agreed to host five Chinese Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo, considered by Beijing to be terrorists.
In 2013, at the request of Washington and the UN, Albania hosted 200 members of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMPI). Their number has since increased and there are now about 3,000 in Ashraf and Manze, the largest group of PMOI exiles in the world.
He noted that most of the refugees have been agitating to return to their communities to pick up the pieces of their lives.
“We need to follow up commitment with action, which is very important. One of the importance of this Global Compact of Refugees is to support citizens of countries of origin for the return of refugees back to their home country,
“I am of the view that we should first look at how we can help to support Nigerians who are taking refuge in another country, especially those who are living in the neighbouring Niger Republic as well as the Republic of Cameroon who have been agitating in the past.
“This is very important because we have over 200,000 from Borno State who are now refugees in countries like Cameroon, Republic of Niger and Chad.
“The government of Borno is willing to support and work with the humanitarian sector to ensure the return of Nigerian refugees in other countries,” Zulum said.
The Governor added that many communities have been resettled in the last couple of months and the state government is not forcing anyone to return but people are going back to their communities voluntarily.
Also at the event, UNHCR country representative to Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya said, the global compact on refugees has four key objectives they are; ease the pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
Other speakers at the meeting include the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajjia Sadiya Umar Farouq.
The UN country director also said despite Nigeria’s complex humanitarian challenges, the country has been host country to over 61,000 Cameroonian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cross River, Benue and Taraba since 2017.
She added that Nigeria has also hosted about 4,300 urban refugees from the DRC, CAR, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.
Pope Francis on Sunday urged international bodies as well as political and military leaders to stop the violence in Libya and to also end the plight of migrants, refugees and others trapped there.
Speaking from a window at his Vatican residence on St Peter’s Square, the pope told the faithful he included his concerns in his prayers over recent days.
“I am following the dramatic situation in Libya with great apprehension,” he said.
“I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to recommence with conviction and resolve the search for a path towards an end to the violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country.”
The pope also said he prayed for “the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya”.
Alluding apparently to the coronavirus pandemic also hitting Libya, he said “the health situation has aggravated the already precarious conditions in which they find themselves, making them more vulnerable to forms of exploitation and violence.”
He added “there is cruelty”, urging the international community to take “their plight to heart” and find ways and means “to provide them with the protection they need, a dignified condition and a future of hope.”
The oil-rich North African nation has been mired in chaos and violence since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the west, including the capital Tripoli, while military strongman Khalifa Haftar holds the east and some of the far-flung oases and oilfields that dot the south.
War and division are now weakening Libya’s fight against the novel coronavirus, with the government struggling to deal with an outbreak deep in the desert south.
Cameroonian refugees seeking asylum in Cross River State on Tuesday received relief items aimed at cushioning the harsh economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The items, which were said to worth millions of naira, were distributed by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the National Commissioner for Refugees, Migrants, And Internally displaced persons.
The refugee settlement located at Adagom and Ukende/Akpakpanga in Ogoja Local Government Area of Cross River State serves as a home for thousands of refugees.
According to the UNHCR, Cross River State plays host to over 70 thousand refugees and the agency intends to strengthen COVID-19 awareness within the camp.
The refugees were also presented with cleaning agents and other products to encourage proper hygiene and prevent COVID-19 spread in the camp.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that an estimated 23,000 persons in the northwestern part of Nigeria, have been forced to seek safety and security in Niger in the last one month (April) due to the violence in the region.
According to a statement issued by the UNHCR on Tuesday, this takes the total number of refugees fleeing that part of the country to take sanctuary in neighbouring Niger, to more than 60,000 since the first influx, in April last year.
“Since April 2019, people have fled relentless attacks by armed groups in the Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states of Nigeria. Most found refuge in Niger’s Maradi region,” the statement read.
“Fearing and fleeing the same insecurity in the border areas, an additional 19,000 Niger nationals have become displaced inside their own country”.
The UNHCR further explained that the latest influx of refugees, which involves mainly desperate women and children, follows attacks in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during the month of April.
“Several villages in several Local Government Areas were attacked by gunmen.
“The deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Kankara, Danmusa and Dusi-ma Local Government Areas in Katsina State and prompted airstrikes by the Nigerian Armed Forces,” the statement added.
According to the UNHCR, those fleeing speak of extreme violence unleashed against civilians, murders, kidnappings for ransom and pillaging and looting of villages and despite border closures due to COVID-19, they are still being allowed to seek protection in Niger.
Meanwhile, there’s now an urgent need for water, food and access to health services, as well as shelter and clothing.
But the agency says it is working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 7,000 refugees to safety, in villages 20 kilometres away from the border, where water, food, shelter, access to health and other essential assistance can be provided.
This, according to them, will also ease the pressure on host communities in border areas, where basic infrastructure and services are lacking.
At least 15 women and children drowned and more than 50 others were missing after a boat overloaded with Rohingya refugees sank off southern Bangladesh as it tried to reach Malaysia Tuesday, officials said.
Some 138 people — mainly women and children — were packed on a trawler barely 13 metres (40 feet) long, trying to cross the Bay of Bengal, a coast guard spokesman told AFP.
“It sank because of overloading. The boat was meant to carry a maximum of 50 people. The boat was also loaded with some cargo,” another coast guard spokesman, Hamidul Islam, added.
Seventy-one people have been rescued including 46 women. Among the dead, 11 were women and the rest children.
Anwara Begum said two of her sons, aged six and seven, drowned in the tragedy.
“We were four of us in the boat… Another child (son, aged 10) is very sick,” the 40-year-old told AFP.
Fishermen tipped off the coast guard after they saw survivors swimming and crying for help in the sea.
The boat’s keel hit an undersea coral in shallow water off Saint Martin’s island, Bangladesh’s southernmost territory, before it sank, survivors said.
“We swam in the sea before boats came and rescued us,” said survivor Mohammad Hossain, 20.
Coast guard commander Sohel Rana said three survivors, including a Bangladeshi, were detained over human trafficking allegations.
Nearly one million Rohingya live in squalid camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, many fleeing the neighbouring country after a 2017 brutal military crackdown.
With few opportunities for jobs and education in the camps, thousands have tried to reach other countries like Malaysia and Thailand by attempting the hazardous 2,000-kilometre journey.
An estimated 25,000 Rohingya left Bangladesh and Myanmar on boats in 2015 trying to get to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hundreds drowned when overloaded boats sank.
‘Tragedy waiting to happen’
Begum said her family paid a Bangladeshi trafficker $450 per head to be taken to Malaysia.
“We’re first taken to a hill where we stayed for five days. Then they used three small trawlers to take us to a large trawler, which sank,” she said.
Shakirul Islam, a migration expert whose group works with Rohingya to raise awareness against trafficking, said desperation in the camps was making refugees want to leave.
“It was a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said.
“They just want to get out, and fall victim to traffickers who are very active in the camps.”
Islam said in the past two months dozens of Rohingya reported approaches from traffickers to his OKUP migration rights group.
“Human smuggling and trafficking in the Bay of Bengal is particularly difficult to address as it requires concerted effort from multiple states,” the Bangladesh head of UN agency the International Organisation for Migration, Giorgi Gigauri, told AFP.
“The gaps in coordination are easily exploited by criminal networks.”
Since last year, Bangladesh authorities have picked up over 500 Rohingya from rickety fishing trawlers or coastal villages as they waited to board boats.
Trafficking often increases during the November-March period when the sea is safest for the small trawlers used by traffickers.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal to send back some Rohingya to their homeland, but none have agreed to return because of safety fears.
Save the Children called on Myanmar to “take all necessary steps to ensure the Rohingya community can return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner”.
“The tragic drowning of women and children… should be a wake-up call for us all,” Athena Rayburn of Save the Children said in a statement.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that there are about 218,000 Nigeria refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the UNHCR country representative, Mr Anthonio Canhandula, urged the Federal Government to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.
Mr Canhandula added that Nigeria is currently housing 46,000 refugees from Cameroon, which is spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.
He also noted that only 1.2 million of the 1.8 million accessible Internally Displaced Persons are receiving assistance – a situation which he believes requires urgent attention.
About 133 Nigerian refugees comprising mostly women and children who fled Nigeria for Cameroon in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgence in the northeast have returned to the country.
The returnees touched down at the Yola International Airport aboard the Nigerian Air Force C130 at about 5:00 pm on Thursday.
They were accompanied by officials of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, UNHCR, IOM, NAPTIP, security agencies and other humanitarian organisations.
Upon their arrival, they were taken to a facility within the Yola International Airport where food was provided for them before going through a screening process.
According to the UNHCR Representative, Roger Volo, the exercise is a voluntary repatriation because the refugees voluntarily signed to return to their ancestral homes.
Also speaking on the repatriation, the newly sworn in Minister for Humanitarian Services, Disaster Management and Internally Displaced Persons, Sadiya Faruk who was on ground to receive the refugees, assured them that government will take care of their welfare.
There are about 97,000 Nigerians taking refuge in Cameroon out of which 8,000 are from Adamawa state while the rest are indigenes of Borno and Yobe State.
According to the Minister, the evacuation of the refugees will continue until all those who are willing to return are brought back home.
Narrating her ordeal, one of the returnees, Amina Saidu, lamented that while in Cameroon, she and her family had to endure so much hardship.
“We were in Cameroon for five years but I left my husband there because he wanted to harvest his farm before returning home in the next batch.
“While in Cameroon we suffered, we didn’t have water and we suffered a lot to fetch fire wood for our cooking. Whenever they give us food, we eat half of it while we sell the other half to meet our other needs. We were not given other condiments except salt, so we need money to buy other food items.
“We are very happy to be back home. We thank God and also the government for bringing us back home,” she said.
The Adamawa State Governor who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Basir Ahmed, said he was delighted about their return.
Some 3,500 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been cleared to return home to Myanmar beginning this week, a top official said Monday, nearly two years after a military crackdown sparked their exodus.
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in August 2017 from a military offensive in Myanmar – joining 200,000 already there – but virtually none have volunteered to return despite the countries signing a repatriation deal.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, however, said he was “optimistic” about a new repatriation process scheduled to start on Thursday.
A previous attempt in November 2018 to return 2,260 Rohingya failed after they refused to leave the camp without guarantees for their safety.
“Everything is ready… the land transit point has been prepared,” Kalam told reporters after a meeting with Myanmar officials in Cox’s Bazar, southeast Bangladesh, where the refugees live in vast camps.
“Nobody will be forced to return unless they volunteer,” he said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar officials plan to repatriate 300 Rohingya each day, with some 3,500 refugees cleared to make the journey home, Kalam said.
The new push follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
Kalam said Myanmar and United Nations officials were meeting with selected refugees on Tuesday to encourage them to return to Rakhine State.
The Rohingya, who are mostly Muslim, are not recognised as an official minority by the Myanmar government which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.
The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has called for additional efforts from states and the Federal Government to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerian refugees in neighbouring countries as well as Internally Displaced Persons living in camps across Nigeria.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the 2019 International Day for Refugees in Abuja, the country’s representative for the UN agency, Antonio Canhandula, noted that recent crisis in Zamfara and Sokoto States have swelled the numbers of Nigerian refugees in Niger and Cameroon.
According to him, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of response to the IDPs.
He also maintained that its time for countries that are a signatory to the Kampala Convention to domesticate the terms of 2009 agreement, which seeks to protect the rights of refugees and IDPs.