Some 26 Nigerians including a child currently at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) camp in Choucha, Tunisia, have cried out for help over their plight at the camp.
In a protest letter emailed to the North American Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York by Obinna Obielu, the refugees requested for support for feeding and other essential necessities of life. They demanded that they should be granted international protection in a safe third country with effective system of protection as well as a resettlement programme.
The refugees added that during the evacuation of people in Libya, hundreds of Nigerians came to the camp with the hope that arrangements would be made for them to return to their home countries with the assistance of the Tunisian government and International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
“We are writing with regards to the impending closure of the camp which is expected to come into effect on June 2013 and appealing for your consideration to support our objections to such cruel decisions that is already causing frustration among those living in the camp. Our legal and living situation exceeds our capacity to bear the hardship experienced daily at the camp,” they stressed.
The letter listed the names of affected Nigerians as Emmanuel Ndukwe; Lorita Ndukwe; Joy Ndukwe (1-year-old); Olaitan Bello; Benjamin Omoruyi; Frank Igwe; Kelechi Uzoaru; Stephen Efosa; Emmanuel Chukwuemeka; David Ike; Ndidi Hillary and Favour Ifeanyi.
Others are Opia Charle; Elvis Otis; Ojo Kelly; Monday Efe; Paul Ebade; Chuks Umunna; Prince Osameriyn; Samson Bright; Christopher Mokwe; Nicholas Umunna; Olorunfemi Danile; Billy Alaye; Idris Solomon and Jibreel Abdulmaleek.
“We came to Tunisia legally during the Libyan 2011 crisis, under the evacuation of the UNHCR, Red Cross and the International Committee; but at first the UNHCR emergency protection team refused to register us, saying our country is at peace and rich with lots of opportunity. For more than two years we have been living in a remote desert make-shift camp under extreme weather conditions that is very challenging in every aspect of life.
“Finally we were registered after several requests. Our appeal today is directed to the refugee status determination flaw perpetrated by the emergency team of Choucha. This become necessary because our initial claims were misunderstood, misinterpreted and as a result of this we have suffered a lot of indignity during and after the interviews with the authorities,” they said.
The group noted that the UNHCR received a Federal Government official on September 12, 2011 where their case files were presented to him. According to them, after studying the file, the official called them and expressed his opinion on their request which was negative.
The group noted that after the UNHCR decisions, others left the camp back to Libya while some individuals with support from I.O.M voluntarily returned to Nigeria.
“For more than one year now, we have embarked on a struggle against the UNHCR rejections of our request because we have the same rights as refugees, This is based on the fact that we all fled from the war zone and gave the reasons why we cannot return to our country of origin as given during the interviews. In a reaction to the rejections of our request, we made several representations to the EU and the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva We are full of hope that our protests will receive a positive response from there,’’ they said.