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The fate of refugees in Africa

13.04.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The Geneva Convention of 1951 defines a refugee as "Any person who is owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…". The Organization of African Unity (OAU) dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU) see a refugee as, "every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination, or events seriously disrupting public order, in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality".

The 2018 United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) reported that 70 % of refugees worldwide do not live in refugee camps but in individual or private accommodations, exposed to very harsh unhealthy conditions. An unexpected 68.5 million people worldwide have been forced out of their homes, only about 25.4 million are in refugee camps and over half in refugee camps are under 18 and the rest aging men and women.

Many African refugees flee from their homes because of war, hunger, unemployment, poverty, tribal conflicts, religious differences, racial rejection, diseases, unrest and insecurity caused by oppressive government regimes and groups.

Refugee Camps/Statistics in Africa

Nakivale Camp in Uganda, the oldest in Africa currently houses 68,996 people who fled the violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mbera Camp in Mauritania is hosting over 80,000 as predicted by the UNHCR, majority from Mali, the rest from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.

Kakuma Camp in Northern Kenya since 1992 has been a home to many South Sudanese refugees and holds a record today of 140,000 refugees from 15 different African nationalities. Apart from the Kakuma camp, Hagadera, Dagahaley and Dadaab refugee camps are also stationed in South-Eastern Kenya, currently the second largest worldwide, hosting over 100,000 refugees mostly Somalians.

Yida refugee camp at the border of South Sudan is an unplanned settlement for Sudanese refugees since 2011 with over 20,000 residents.

Katumba at the borders of Burundi and Tanzania existing since 1972 is a refugee home for Burundians who fled the government’s mass extermination of the Huntu.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in North Western Uganda has nearly 285,000 people from South Sudan.

Nyarugusu Refugee Camp opened in 1996 to host refugees who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, has recently received thousands more from Burundi.

Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia is a host for about 201,123 registered refugees who have fled drought and famine in Somalia.

The Fate/Reintegration of the Refugees

The fate, comfort and reintegration of refugees in Africa back to normal life are questionable because after they have been accommodated; their security and welfare become the next challenge to African governments. Refugee camps are a humanitarian ventures fostered most often by the UN, ILO, UNICEF, UNCHR, FAO, IRO and some governments to save lives and limit their insurgent influx into countries when their physical and mental statuses are not certain.

Despite this challenge, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi keeps a positive thought about this as she said in 2016,

“Refugees have skills, ideas, hopes and dreams.… They are also tough, resilient and creative, with the energy and drive to shape their own destinies, if given the chance”.

African governments see refugees as a nuisance or burden that will add to their already existing internal difficulties.

Most of the refugees are from poorer countries with little or no education and consequently no skills, thus governments think they will bring down their economy claiming they are a liability.

The uncertainty of the physical and mental health statuses also hinders them from being easily accepted by many governments.

However, the issue of refugees in African can be immensely reduced or solved if the various governments concerned can properly address the root causes; elections, leaders staying in power for too long, religious and racial differences just to name a few.

Refugees in some already existing camps are living under deplorable conditions and barely receive the necessary attention they need. Governments need to take it as a responsibility, follow the due legal procedures and allocate more resources to remedy this issue and also provide more infrastructures in case the number increases.

The fate of refugees in Africa is not promising and there is a probability that the number will keep rising because the causes are still persistent.

“The solution of the refugee problem largely depends on a sustained effort by African countries to settle their conflicts in conference rooms and not in battle fields”, says Dr Shey Peter Mabu a Cameroonian writer. African governments need to end conflicts, wars and hunger which are the main causes of people leaving their homes to seek refuge which in a long run will affect the economies of different states.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image: google image

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