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West Africa ship: individual interviews begin

Briefing Notes, 29 June 2001

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 June 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has begun individual interviews with 156 ex-passengers of the Swedish-registered ship Alnar, which landed in Nigeria on Sunday after a four-week odyssey off the coast of West Africa. At the end of the first day of interviews on Wednesday, indications were that a large number of the passengers most of them Liberians are seeking asylum in Nigeria.

The government of Nigeria agreed on "humanitarian grounds" that the ship could dock in Lagos and indicated it would be willing to grant asylum to its passengers. The passengers, who had left Monrovia on June 1st, had been refused entry in Ghana. The ship then moored off the coast of Benin and later Togo without obtaining authorisation to dock.

Passengers coming off the ship on Tuesday morning received assistance from UNHCR and other relief agencies at the port. They received food and water as well as a package including blankets and kitchen tools. They were all given medical examinations and their overall condition was deemed satisfactory. They were then transported by bus to Oru refugee camp, some 120 km west of Lagos.

Oru already has close to 2,000 refugees, all of them from Sierra Leone. Nigeria is hosting 7,200 refugees, mainly from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Chad. A large number of them are urban refugees living in Lagos. UNHCR in Nigeria is assisting 4,800 of them. The rest have been locally integrated.

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Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

One year after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, violence continues to displace people within Nigeria and to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, including some 22,000 Nigerian refugees. Civilians trapped at home face recurrent attacks by insurgents, with a series of kidnappings and killings culminating in mid-April this year in the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno.

UNHCR's Hélène Caux recently travelled to the region to meet with some of the 250,000 internally displaced, including students caught up in the violence. Those she spoke to told her about their fears, and the atrocities and suffering they had endured or witnessed. People spoke about their homes and fields being destroyed, grenade attacks on markets, the killing of friends and relatives, and arbitrary arrests. Uniting them is an overwhelming sense of terror. Caux found it a challenge to photograph people who live in constant fear of being attacked. "It was this delicate balance to try to achieve between featuring them, communicating their stories and protecting them," she said.

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

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Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian Refugees

In Minawao camp, Cameroon, Nigerian refugees get a chance to tell their stories to High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres during his visit.
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Chad: A Nigerian Child Alone

Thousands of refugees have fled militant attacks in Nigeria and sought safety in Chad. They include at least 100 children who have been provided shelter by other families.
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Chad: Refugees from Nigeria

In recent weeks, thousands have been forced to flee northern Nigeria after militants attacked their villages, crossing Lake Chad in packed boats and seeking safety at the Dar-es-Salam refugee site in Chad.