UNHCR Not Involved In Plans to Receive Stranded Liberians

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- As Nigerian Port and Immigration officials await the arrival of the Swedish ship carrying Liberians believed to be refugees, the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) said it is not involved in the plans to receive them.
"This office is not involved with the plans.
and I don't know if they are refugees," said UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Godfrey Sabiti.
Sabiti told PANA in Lagos Thursday that the agency would only be involved if the 186 passengers, including 79 children, asked for political asylum.
"Normally, they will ask for asylum on arrival and then contact this office," he said.
The UNHCR official said he read about the plight of the passengers and the decision by the Nigerian government to allow them to come to the country in the newspapers on Wednesday, and did not know anything beyond that report.
"I have been checking at the port and nobody knows when the ship is coming," Sabiti said.
Officials at the country's main Apapa port, near Lagos, have been on alert since the government announced late Tuesday that it had decided to allow the ship to berth in Nigeria and discharge its passengers, widely believed to be people fleeing the fighting in Liberia's Lofa county.
A Foreign Ministry statement said the decision was taken "purely on humanitarian grounds" During his visit to Nigeria on Monday, Malian President and ECOWAS Chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare, appealed to President Olusegun Obasanjo to take in the Liberians after Ghana and Benin denied them entry.
Nigeria's National Commission for Refugees said Wednesday its officials were making the necessary arrangements to receive the Liberians, although it said the government was yet to formally inform the Commission about the decision.

21 june 2001 14:07:00

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