No examine the plight of refugees across the world, the Nigerian Centre of PEN International, aka PEN Nigeria, held a virtual international conference in commemoration of the World Refugee Day.
According to the group’s Folu Agoi, at this point in time, focusing on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the refugee situation is key to fighting the menace globally. He said: “The World Refugee Day is a day set aside by the United Nations to draw attention to the predicament of refugees around the world with focus on the need to protect their human rights. “Against the backdrop of W. H. Auden’s 1939 poem, “Refugee Blues”, the conference also sought to highlight the state of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), poverty, conflicts.”
He raised fears over the increase of the menace globally. “The issue of refugees and internally displaces persons, particularly in these trying times of COVID-19 pandemic, must be of concern to everyone that has feelings. The world population, according to Wikipedia, is estimated to be 7.8 billion (as at March, 2020), and going by the 2019 records of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, at least 79.5 million people – that is, 1% of the world population – have been forced out of their homes mainly by insecurity – that is, socio-economic and political instability – besides climate change.
“In Nigeria, for instance, where insurgency, banditry and communal conflicts have generated over 2 million internally displaced persons, one can imagine how these vulnerable souls known to have little or no access to legal or health facilities have been striving to survive in these times of dwindling economic resources and lockdown in a giant country with dilapidated social structures,” Agoi said.
It featured performances, a panel discussion moderated by Secretary of PEN Nigeria, Dagga Tolar.
The panelists were Tade Ipadeola (former President of PEN Nigeria), Dr Tolu Ajayi (former Chairman of Lagos Chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA), Indra Wussow (Director of the Sylt Foundation-Germany/South Africa) and Dr Shambhavi Vedantam Murthy (Scholar and past Country Director, Nigeria for an International Non- Government Organisation working with Refugees, Displaced and Civilians in Conflict in Nigeria and Lake Chad Basin Region).
Several talented poets were in attendance. Some of them, including Quadri Adelowo, aka Jagunlabi Kodeman, and Wendy Nnadi, thrilled the audience with exciting poetic performances.