• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR concerned about displaced Nigerians, calls on neighbouring countries to keep borders open

Press Releases, 29 May 2013

The UN refugee agency on Wednesday voiced concern about the safety and welfare of people displaced in northern Nigeria by the activities of the militant Boko Haram group and the government's response. UNHCR also urged Nigeria and other governments in the region to offer protection to the internally displaced or those seeking asylum.

Reports from the north indicate that many people have been left internally displaced and others have fled across borders and sought shelter in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

"UNHCR remains concerned for the safety of the civilian population, especially those who may be forced to flee from their homes in search of safety," said George Okoth-Obbo, director of UNHCR's Africa Bureau.

In Niger, UNHCR has confirmed the arrival of at least 2,400 people from Nigeria. Elsewhere, reports suggest that Nigerians may have been prevented from entering Cameroon because of measures taken to prevent the infiltration of armed groups. UNHCR is in contact with the Cameroon authorities to verify the reports and their impact on legitimate asylum-seekers.

"The authorities have a legitimate responsibility to secure national security. At the same time, it is vital to ensure the safety and protection of civilians caught in this situation and their right to seek asylum in neighbouring countries," Okoth-Obbo said.

"We call on the concerned governments in the region, which are all signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to allow civilians fleeing insecurity or other risks to enter their territory."

As the activities of Boko Haram and the government response continue, humanitarian agencies fear further displacement and an influx of Nigerian asylum-seekers, or even third country nationals, into neighboring countries.

UNHCR stands ready to assist the arriving refugees in neighbouring countries and is prepositioning emergency relief supplies to assist new arrivals now and in the future.

For further information please contact:

  • In Niger (on mission), Helene Caux (Regional spokesperson) on mobile +221 77 333 1291
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

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

Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Cameroon: A Young Victim of ViolencePlay video

Cameroon: A Young Victim of Violence

Militia attacks on civilians in Central African Republic have left many people, including children, dead or badly injured. Six-year-old Ibrahim is recovering from one such attack, lucky to be alive.
Cameroon:  Malnourished ChildrenPlay video

Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.