Some 7,292 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia resident in Nigeria are to be integrated into the country under the terms of a multi-party agreement signed by ECOWAS, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the three countries.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas and the country representative of the UNHCR in Nigeria, Mr Alphonse Malanda, signed the agreement on Monday, 6th August 2007.
Representatives of the three countries had signed the agreement, which also divests the affected nationals of their status as refugees, enabling them to benefit from the residency provisions of the regional Protocol on the free movement of persons, goods and services.
Included in this arrangement are the 5,619 Liberian and 1,673 Sierra Leonean refugees who did not register during the promotion by the UNHCR for voluntary repatriation, which ended in December 2004 for Sierra Leoneans, and 30th June 2007 for Liberians. Both countries are required to issue their affected nationals with passports while the host government will ensure they enjoy the entitlements of ECOWAS citizenship including the right to work, access to education and health on the same terms as Nigerians.
The agreement also provides for the establishment of a multifunctional team of the three countries, ECOWAS and the UNHCR that will determine the modalities and timing of the transition to ECOWAS residency status for the affected nationals.