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A forgotten tragedy – UN experts call for a stronger response to internal displacement in Nigeria

GENEVA (23 July 2014) – Two United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of Nigeria and the international community for a swift and stronger response to the plight of some 3.3 million people displaced in the country due to violence since 2010, one of the highest numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world.

“International support to protect and assist those displaced has remained woefully insufficient and has not kept par with the speedy increase of IDPs in Nigeria”, warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani.

“Large scale internal displacement remains a national challenge in Nigeria,” Mr. Beyani noted. “The prevention of further displacement caused by indiscriminate killings, burning of villages and grenade attacks in crowded markets has to be a priority”.

The independent expert urged all parties to the hostilities to spare civilians and civilian areas, stressing that most of the displaced are women heads of households, many of them widows, and children.

“They have been the victims of violations, they have been traumatized, they have lost any means to provide for themselves, let alone their families, and they need urgent assistance,” he said. “Not only have IDPs lost all means to provide for themselves, but host communities have also exhausted their support capacity.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, who visited Nigeria in February 2014, explained that many of those displaced are persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities who have been victims of violence.

“Urgent steps should be taken to address not only the symptoms but the root causes of the mass displacement that is affecting some regions,” Ms. Izsak said. “Causes frequently lie beyond ethnic or faith factors, such as competition for land and resources and solutions require good governance in addition to effective security responses.”

In addition to life saving activities, the Special Rapporteur on IDPs drew special attention to the urgent need to restore livelihoods, services and governance capacity needs in order to allow IDPs to find durable solutions in the near future.

“The Nigerian authorities should make it a priority to adopt its draft national policy on IDPs, to serve as a framework to more efficiently respond to the needs of the internally displaced, including the support for durable solutions,” Mr. Beyani said.

“The assistance and protection of the displaced is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government of Nigeria,” the Special Rapporteur noted, while commending recent efforts to assist over 200,000 IDPs.

ENDS

Mr. Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

Ms. Rita Izsák was appointed as Independent Expert on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2011, and subsequently her mandate was renewed as Special Rapporteur in March 2014. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/IExpert/Pages/IEminorityissuesIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Nigeria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/NGIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Marie-Eve Friedrich (+41 22 917 9713 / mfriedrich@ohchr.org) or write to idp@ohchr.org

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