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NE Nigeria insecurity sees refugee outflows spreading to Cameroon

Briefing Notes, 18 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 18 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With the on-going crisis in north-eastern Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, UNHCR offices are reporting refugee arrivals in Niger, and now in Cameroon too.

In Cameroon, a UNHCR team visited areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border in the Far North region on Friday. They reported the presence of over 3,000 Nigerians.

Crossings of Nigerians into Cameroon began a week ago, with people telling us they had fled a confrontation between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram insurgents some 10 kilometers from border. Most of those who have arrived so far are women and children. They are being hosted in churches and schools, and relying on food from the churches and local population. We are working with the authorities to relocate the refugees to safer places away from the border.

Meanwhile in Niger, we have sent relief aid by trucks from Niamey to the south eastern Diffa region, where over 6,000 persons have arrived from northern Nigeria in the past weeks. That figure includes Nigerian nationals (2,692) as well as returning Niger nationals (3,544) and others (mainly Chadians). Mats, blankets, jerry cans, soaps, buckets, mosquito nets and kitchen items have been pre-positioned in Diffa, Bosso, Kablewa and Menesewa and will be distributed to both Nigerian refugees and Nigerien returnees.

Most of the new arrivals in Niger are women and children coming from rural villages across the border and from Maiduguri and Baga towns.

People are still arriving in Niger. On 11 June, gunshots were heard in Malam Fatouri, a village on the Nigeria side, near the border, prompting most of the population to flee into Niger. They travelled by foot and motorcycles and found refuge with host families just across the border. Hundreds of new arrivals have also been reported in an area some 60 km north of Diffa, according to local authorities. At the same time, our teams observed that some displaced persons from Nigeria are returning home after a few days in Niger or shuttling between the two countries depending on the security situation in Nigeria.

In Chad there have been no further arrivals of Nigerians beyond the 155 received last week. There the border is officially closed.

The Nigerian government imposed a state of emergency on the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the northeast of the country in May.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar: Helene Caux (Regional) on mobile + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Niger: Charlotte Arnaud on mobile +227 92 19 19 03
  • In Nigeria: Katja Rytkonen on mobile +234 80 95 27 12 07
  • In Cameroon: Catherine Hamon Sharpe on mobile: +237 79 53 35 45
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483



UNHCR country pages

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

Young and Struggling with Malnutrition: Child Refugees in Cameroon

Growing numbers of refugees from the Central African Republic have been arriving in Cameroon in a dreadful physical condition after spending weeks or months hiding in the bush, struggling to find food and water, and sleeping out in the open, unable to return to the homes they were forced to flee from. The most vulnerable of these refugees are the children, especially those aged under five years. It is heart-breaking to see these rail thin children, clearly in need of sustenance after living on roots and leaves. An estimated 40 per cent of children arrive suffering from malnutrition and for some the journey proves too much, but UNHCR has been helping to save lives in eastern Cameroon. With Médecins Sans Frontières, the refugee agency supports a nutrition centre in Batouri. MSF sends children there from its overwhelmed health clinic in the border town of Gbiti, where some 20,000 of the 80,000 Central African refugees in Cameroon have arrived. The partners are expanding the capacity of the centre, which treats about 100 children. More arrive daily and UNHCR has set up tents to provide shelter for the children and their mothers. Photographer Frederic Noy last week visited Gbiti and Batouri and captured the following powerful images.

Young and Struggling with Malnutrition: Child Refugees in Cameroon

Nigeria: Back to schoolPlay video

Nigeria: Back to school

When gun-toting Boko Haram insurgents attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria, thousands of children fled to safety. They now have years of lessons to catch up on as they return to schools, some of which now double as camps for internally displaced people or remain scarred by bullets.
Nigeria: Homeless in their own countryPlay video

Nigeria: Homeless in their own country

Boko Haram's bloody insurgency made at least two million Nigerians homeless in their own country. As large swathes of the northeast remain no-go areas, UNHCR and other partners are providing vital aid, including bedding and cooking utensils to those driven into internal exile.
Cameroon: Escape from NigeriaPlay video

Cameroon: Escape from Nigeria

Attacks by Nigerian insurgents have spread to neighbouring countries in recent months, severely restricting the 'humanitarian space' aid organisations, like UNHCR, can operate in to help people made homeless by the unrest. The insurgents have also recently mounted a series of suicide attacks in Cameroon - the first such attacks in the country.