Commission denies abandoning Togolese asylum-seekers
THE National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally-Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) has debunked allegations that it abandoned Togolese asylum-seekers who besieged the commission’s South-West Zonal office at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.
A statement signed by Head, NCFRMI South-West Zone Office, Mrs. Margaret Ukegbu and made available to The Guardian yesterday, said the Lagos State Government, through the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and other security agencies, facilitated the movement of the asylum-seekers from its office premises on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, to their relief camp in another part of Lagos at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday, August 14, 2015.
The statement read: “We would also like to further intimate the general public that the Commission did not abandon the asylum-seekers as erroneously reported on several media platforms, as they were given the full assistance of the commission and were duly registered and given the relevant documentation to enable them move about freely.
They however chose to camp outside the office premises for reasons best known to them. “This mandated the collaborative effort by the NCFRMI, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), LASEMA and other partner-agencies to seek a speedy resolution, which would be according to international best practices and not lead to a diplomatic issue. “We would like to appreciate the prompt response of the Lagos State Government to alleviate the plight of the Togolese asylum-seekers, and also the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Onikan Police Department for ensuring that men and officers of the Force were on ground to ensure adequate security and protection.”
The commission, which stated further that some reports erroneously referred to these persons as refugees, whereas they are asylum-seekers, said: “The difference being that asylum-seekers are persons who are seeking to be granted the status of refugee by a host country, while legally-speaking, refugees are persons who have been granted such a status.
These Togolese asylum-seekers in question were originally in the Republic of Benin where they had fled to during the political crisis which engulfed the Republic of Togo in 2005.
Having been in the Agame refugee camp in Benin Republic for the past 10 years, the government of Benin upon realising that things have returned to normalcy in Togo, asked the refugees to either be reintegrated into the Beninoise society as the camp needed to be shut down or return to their country of origin (Togo), but they refused either of the options and have found their way into Nigeria. “As is the international practice, when these asylum-seekers got to the NCFRMI office, they were duly registered by the Commission and given attestation documents, these documents enable them to move about freely in the country pending when their refugee status would be determined.”