Refugees situation remains dire in sub-Saharan Africa

Syrian emigrants leave for a better life in Europe/HASSAN AKKAD

Five years ago Hassan Akkad, a Syrian, packed 27 years of his life in a single rucksack and set out to the unknown.

The Bafta/Emmy award winning film maker, photographer and refugees’ rights activist was, among others, running away from the ongoing Syrian civil war, which is part of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Akkad was part of the team that made Exodus: Our Journey to Europe which won the British Academy Television Award for Best Factual Series or Strand in 2017.

The Syrian conflict is a multi-sided war between the government of President Bashar al-Assad supported by domestic and foreign allies against other local and external forces against his rule. The war is classified as the second deadliest in the 21st Century.

On June 18, Akkad tweeted that he had received a letter from the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, thanking him for his contribution in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

“… Yesterday, I received a letter from the mayor of one the greatest cities in the world to thank me on behalf of Londoners.”

“It’s been one hell of a journey. I’m so honoured and proud. Proud to be a Londoner. Thank you so much  @SadiqKhan– I promise I will write back. Just taking some time to find a suitable frame for this letter and process how surreal this whole thing is,” Akkad tweeted.

On April 7, started volunteering to clean hospitals to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“Honoured to join an army of cleaners disinfecting Covid wards our local hospital after receiving training. London has been my home since leaving Syria, and the least I can do is making sure my neighbours and the amazing NHS staff are safe and sound. #StayHomeSaveLives,” he said on Twitter.

As the globe celebrated World Refugee Day on June 20, it is the efforts of the likes of Akkad that demonstrate the importance immigrants in their host states.

“Refugees and migrants, around the world, are assets to their host communities; they add value, love and richness,” Akkad said.

According to the UNHCR, World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the recent anti-racism protests, the UN says, have shown us how desperately the world needs to fight for a more inclusive and equal world: a world where no one is left behind.

“It has never been clearer that all of us have a role to play in order to bring about change. This year, we aim to remind the world that everyone, including refugees, can contribute to society and Every Action Counts in the effort to create a more just, inclusive, and equal world,” the UN said.

In his message to mark World Refugee Day on Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reminded countries of their “fundamental obligation to protect the nearly 80 million people worldwide forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution and other crises”.

He also praised countries and communities hosting refugees and internally displaced people.

“We owe these countries our thanks, our support and our investment,” he said.

Global displacement is at a record high, UNHCR, reported on June 18.

Figures reached 79.5 million in 2019, with 10 million people fleeing in the past year alone.

The African Union notes that forced displacement of persons results from factors such  as protracted violent conflicts, terrorism and violent extremism, natural disasters, climate change, governance deficit, diversity mismanagement and human rights violations.

The AU has what is called the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa also known as the Kampala Convention.

Article 3(1b) Kampala Convention notes that, “States shall prevent political, social, cultural and economic exclusion, and marginalisation, that are likely to cause displacement of populations or persons by virtue of their social identity, religion or political opinion”.

It also provides that states shall respect and ensure respect and protection of the human rights of internally displaced persons.

But the situation in Kenya, Africa and the world is not any good.

Some 24.2  million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in sub-Saharan Africa.

In April this year, a Ugandan refugee committed suicide outside United Nations High Commission for Refugees offices in Westlands, Nairobi.

Aneste Mweru, 28, hanged himself on a tree using a scarf after

Complaining of hunger before proceeding to ask for food at the UNHCR offices.

UNHCR says Kenya refugee situation will continue to be marked by the political developments and humanitarian situation in the region, mainly in its two main refugee producing countries – Somalia and South Sudan.

UNHCR statistics show the majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya originate from Somalia (53.7%). Other major nationalities are South Sudanese (24.7%), Congolese (9%); Ethiopians (5.8%).

“Persons of concern from other nationalities including Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, Uganda and others make up 6.8 % of the total population (494,585 as at the end of March 2020) . Almost half of the refugees in Kenya (44%) reside in Dadaab, 40% in Kakuma and 16% in urban areas (mainly Nairobi), alongside 18,500 stateless persons,” UNCR says.

Notably, the May 6, 2016 decision by the government of Kenya to close Dadaab camps and disband the Department for Refugee Affairs significantly impacted the overall operational environment in Dadaab.

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