NEWS

‘Refugees Have Right To Shelter’

Fiji has an obligation to house refugees under the 1951 Convention on Refugees signed in 1972, says Director for Immigration, Nemani Vuniwaqa. Mr Vuniwaqa said the Convention sets a benchmark
30 Sep 2015 10:05
‘Refugees Have Right To Shelter’
Arfaodi Mohamed (left) of Tunisia and Bahram Mahmoodi of Afghanistan in Suva yesterday. Photo: Arieta Vakasukawaqa

Fiji has an obligation to house refugees under the 1951 Convention on Refugees signed in 1972, says Director for Immigration, Nemani Vuniwaqa.

Mr Vuniwaqa said the Convention sets a benchmark on how every signatory should facilitate any refugee or asylum seeker in any country.

“Fiji as a sovereign state and has the prerogative in abiding by these Conventions and to deal with asylum seekers or refugees. However, if Fiji chose not to abide by these Conventions then it can be regarded as a country that doesn’t fulfill or does not observe human rights issues,” Mr Vuniwaqa said.

Fiji had 17 declared refugees; three have been relocated to New Zealand and one to France while 13 others are in the country. These people have undergone refugee status determination process to be declared refugees.

These people are from Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Russia and Tunisia.

“These groups of people have the right to shelter, food and also just for their basic necessity needs,” he said.

According to Mr Vuniwaqa the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assists the refugees in terms of funds, monthly allowances.

He said they also liaised with the Immigration department to ensure that these groups of people were cared for.

“They are not living in accommodation provided for by the state or the department but they are fending for themselves by allowances that are given to them.”

He confirmed that an asylum seeker from Afghanistan had been repatriated after his claims were not verified by the UNHCR.

Mr Vuniwaqa said many of these asylum seekers and refugees had been running to Fiji because they feared for their safety.

“Not all that has made claims have been classified as refugees. Some were still in their asylum seekers stages and have been removed because their claims have not been verified that is they may have given false claims.”

He also confirmed they were in the process of facilitating these refugees with refugee passports. At this stage, he said the refugees have only been identified with refugee ID cards.

He said if some met the requirements of gaining citizenship, they could also apply. Even some, he said had gain Fijian citizenship after meeting the requirements.

“This is something employers too will have to accept the fact that they will be coming with those refugees ID’s and for them to be accepted. What we need to accept is the fact that it would be a brain gain for Fiji; the level of expertise and skills that these refugees will come with.”

Mr Vuniwaqa however said these refugees needed to get through other processes before they would be eligible to also work while being here as a refugee.

“As a way forward what Government needs to do is put in place policies and how we can accommodate and how we can facilitate if there’s a mass arrival of refugees or boat people or asylum seekers into the country.

“We have to put in place how we can accommodate them in terms of resources, medical care, education. These are policies need to be put in place in order for us to move forward as a nation.”

 

Feedback: aqela.susu@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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