More than 500 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon’s far north region have been forcibly repatriated, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has disclosed.
The UN refugee agency said it was deeply concerned that people fleeing for fear of attacks by the insurgent group Boko Haram, were being forced back. The UN agency also distanced itself from the operation.
A UNHCR report said between February 10 to 15, 517 Nigerians were repatriated, including “313 asylum seekers” who were deported after their arrest.
UNHCR, aware of the security challenges in the area as a result of the recurring attacks by the Boko Haram sect, continues to advocate with the Cameroonian authorities in order to maintain access to asylum.
“UNHCR, aware of the security challenges in the area as a result of the recurring attacks by the Boko Haram sect, continues to advocate with the Cameroonian authorities in order to maintain access to asylum and respect the rights of asylum seekers,” the report said.
UNHCR further disclosed that it would on 2 March, sign an agreement with both countries to allow for the voluntary return of more than 85,000 Nigerian refugees.
As of 17 February, more than 61,000 Nigerian refugees have been registered in the camp of Minawao (far north of Cameroon), but many others live outside the site, according to UNHCR.
The Boko Haram attacks also forced many Cameroonians to flee their villages in border areas. On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed food to 2,500 displaced households living in precarious conditions in the locality of Kolofata, an AFP journalist reported.
Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno State is the birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed an estimated 100,000 – according to the governor, Kashim Shettima. It has also lead to the displacement of millions of people.
Its effect goes beyond Nigeria with attacks by the group on countries in the Lake Chad region. Cameroon’s Far North region, Niger and Chad have all had their fair share of Boko Haram attacks.