Nigeria has called for action against Cameroon over reports of forced deportation of at least 4,402 Nigerian refugees in 2017 who had fled the Islamist Boko Haram militants.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Abike Dabiri-Erewa said in a statement on Friday that this is the time the West African regional body ECOWAS and other groups should take an action against its neighbours, state broadcaster NTA reported.
“This unfriendly attitude of the Cameroonian soldiers to Nigerian asylum seekers is really worrisome,” she added in response to the details of the report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday that said the refugees were “forced into trucks like animals”.Abike Dabiri-Erewa said Cameroon needs to stop breaching international law against the ill treatment of refugees who were reported to have been detained and tortured by Cameroonian soldiers before they were dropped off in neighbouring northeast Nigeria where they are facing attacks by Boko Haram.
Cameroon’s minister of communications is quoted by the AFP as categorically denying the claims. “I should like to remind Human Rights Watch of two things. Firstly, we have today almost 500,000 refugees in our country.
This unfriendly attitude of the Cameroonian soldiers to Nigerian asylum seekers is really worrisome.
“Secondly, it is not Cameroon’s role to take in refugees from around the globe,” Issa Tchiroma Bakary said.
HRW said in the report that since early 2015, at least 100,000 refugees were deported and in the first seven and a half months of 2017, 4,402 more were deported including children.
“The forced returns are a flagrant breach of the principle of nonrefoulement, binding on Cameroon under national Cameroonian as well as international law.
“They are also being carried out in defiance of UNHCR’s late 2016 plea to all governments not to return anyone to northeastern Nigeria ‘until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably,’” the 55-page report added.
The UNHCR said the report was broadly in line with its own understanding of the situation, though it could not confirm all the details in the paper.
Cameroon signed a treaty in March with Nigeria and the UNHCR to ensure that all refugee returns are voluntary but the rights group said Cameroon’s violations had continued.