UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely alarmed by reports of the forced return by Cameroon this week of several thousand refugees into violence-affected Borno State in northeast Nigeria. This follows the forced return of 267 Nigerian refugees on 16 January. They had crossed into Cameroon in 2014. We are gravely concerned for the safety and well-being of all these people.
An estimated 9,000 Nigerians fled across the border into Cameroon earlier in the week after militants attacked and ransacked the small border town of Rann in Nigeria’s Borno State. The militants went on a rampage by targeting military installations, civilians and humanitarian facilities. At least 14 people are reported killed.
“This action was totally unexpected and puts lives of thousands of refugees at risk,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “I am appealing to Cameroon to continue its open door and hospitable policy and practices and halt immediately any more returns and to ensure full compliance with its refugee protection obligations under its own national legislation, as well as international law.”
Cameroon is currently home to more than 370,000 refugees, including some 100,000 from Nigeria.
Refugees from northern Nigeria rest after arriving at Minawao camp in Cameroon, in December 2016. © UNHCR/Alexis Huguet