The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has expanded its Africa Bureau by adding three Regional Offices to handle issues across the region for effective response.
Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s Regional Representative to West Africa, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.
Ahua explained that previously, the UNHCR had just one Africa Bureau based in Geneva, but with the enormous issues facing the region, just a Bureau was not sufficient to respond swiftly.
She said the African Bureau covered 38 countries but decision had been taken to split it to three Bureaus with three Bureau Directors and the regional offices remained.
She said: “Presently, UNHCR is going through a reform process to make us more agile, more responsive, especially when we have emergency situations.
“This is because in the past, UNHCR was known as an organisation that was extremely rapid, extremely flexible, but over time that rapidity has slowed down so we have engaged in a process of our decentralisation and regionalisation.
“With the expectations that it will yield more nimble and compact structure that responds more quickly to emergencies and will also be closer to the people than Geneva is.
“The African Bureau is one bureau in addition to other regions.
“One will be based in Dakar covering West Africa and Central Africa, which comprises of 18 countries.
“Another one will be in Pretoria covering the Democratic Republic of Congo and all the southern African countries.
“The third Bureau will be based in Nairobi and that will be covering East Africa and the horn of Africa.”
Ahua said also explained the peculiarities of issues that were faced in the different sub regions.
She said the West Africa and East Africa sub-regions were faced with more issues of Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Statelessness situations.
The regional representative said the southern Africa region on the other hand had more of asylum seekers and people in migration like situations and less of refugees and IDPs.
Ahua said the Southern Africa region was dealing more with migration issues.
She said regardless of the migration status, UNHCR remained committed to ensuring the protection of Persons of Concerns and providing durable solutions.
Ahua said the UNHCR was working closely with other partners like the International Organisation for Migration to address the migration challenges as it fell under their respective purviews.
She said finding solutions for forcefully displaced persons remained the main priority of UNHCR.
She said between 2018 and this year, the UNHCR evacuated and transferred about 3,000 Persons of Concern and settled 1,306 persons.
Ahua said: “Recently there were refugees and migrants caught in the Libyan situation, some of whom have been trafficked, smuggled, gone through the desert and found out they cannot cross over to Europe.
“They come into the UNHCR center and they have been evacuated to Niger.
“There, we have settled 1,306 last year and this year, but the number of people who have been transferred are in the region of 3,000.
“We are not saying that once you move out of Libya to Niger, you will be evacuated or resettled, there are still criteria that we look out for./“