Nigeria's crisis sees more than 6,000 people displaced into neighbouring countries

Briefing Notes, 11 June 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The crisis in northeastern Nigeria has forced more than 6,000 mainly women, children and elderly people to seek safety in neighbouring Niger. Those UNCHR has spoken to say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown on insurgents linked to the Boko Haram sect, particularly in the Baga area of northern Nigeria, close to the Niger border.

Refugees report that air strikes by Government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the state of emergency has been in force since May 14th.

People arriving in Niger also mention the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several States in Nigeria. Rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected States.

Niger has so far received 6,240 people, comprising Nigerian nationals (2,692) returning Niger nationals (3,544), and 94 people of other nationalities (mainly Chadians). New arrivals have settled mainly in Bosso, Diffa, Kablewa, Maine, Tam, Tcoukoujani and Garin Amadou. Once their families are secure in Niger, men are returning to Nigeria to work and to sustain their families' needs.

Many new arrivals have walked into Niger, taking refuge in villages located only a few kilometers away from the border. Others, who fled areas located as far as 300 kilometers away such as Maidougouri in Nigeria, have used cars or motor-cycles.

New arrivals are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions. UNHCR staff who have visited several border villages hosting new arrivals also met some Nigerian families living out in the open, under trees.

Although the local population has welcomed those who have newly arrived, the presence of newcomers is also putting a strain on meager local food and water resources. Niger, a country in the Sahel, itself struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought. UNHCR plans to deliver some relief to the new arrivals as well as to the host community. We are also helping the local authorities to register new arrivals.

UNHCR has also seen arrivals in Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks. There are 155 Nigerian asylum seekers in Chad along with 716 Chadian nationals. In Cameroon there are 1,200 returned nationals.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the security situation remains extremely difficult. UNHCR is not present in the parts of the northeast that are under a state of emergency, due to the prevailing insecurity. Information about the humanitarian situation and displaced people in the northeast is consequently limited.

In Adamawa State, insecurity is reportedly worst in the areas of military operations close to the Cameroonian border. Most of the Northeast suffers from chronic and periodic insecurity due to conflict and insurgent activities (from Borno State to Kaduna Sate).

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar: Helene Caux (Regional) on mobile + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

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

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

Some 60,000 Malian civilians have found refuge in Niger this year, fleeing fighting in northern Mali as well as political instability in the whole country. Most are hosted in three official camps - Tabareybarey, Mangaize and Abala. A significant number are living in spontaneous settlements. All are located in harsh arid countryside where life is tough despite the assistance provided by UNHCR and other aid agencies.

Children are the most vulnerable group, with some suffering from acute malnutrition. Older children are looking forward to resuming their education in a foreign land. Meanwhile, some 6,000 refugees are living in the Niger capital, Niamey, where many of them look for work so that they can send money back to relatives still in Mali.

Meanwhile, the future remains uncertain. Many people fear that continuing fighting inside Mali could lead to an accelerated exodus of refugees from Mali into neighbouring countries, including Niger.

The following photographs by UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux depict life for the refugees in Tabareybarey and Mangaize camps as well as in Niamey.

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

Niger: Flight from Nigeria
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Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.
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Chad: Health for all

Refugees in southern Chad receive health care under a European Union-funded programme. A new clinic tackles malaria, malnutrition, respiratory infections and more.
Chad: Changing LivesPlay video

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Refugees in southern Chad's Amboko Camp grow vegetables under an income-generation programme funded by the European Union.