Some 5,500 Nigerians flee to Cameroon and Niger

Briefing Notes, 24 January 2014

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 24 January 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Recent clashes between the Nigerian Army and insurgent groups in the north-east of the country have led over 4,000 people to seek refuge in Cameroon since mid-January, while an estimated 1,500 people have fled to Niger.

A UNHCR team in Cameroon's Far North Region has spoken with refugees from the area around Banki, a town just across the border in Nigeria's Borno State. The refugees said their villages were bombed, that several people had been killed, and that at least two villages were burned to the ground.

Nigeria's northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have been under states of emergency since May 2013. The continuing violence has displaced thousands of people. Of those who have fled to Cameroon, most are in the Logone-et-Chari area of Far North Region. With this new influx, there are now 12,428 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, according to local Cameroonian authorities. Of that number 2,183 have so far been moved to a UNHCR camp at Minawao, 130 kilometres further inland. Together with partner agencies we are providing refugees with shelter, health, sanitation, education, food, and other help.

In Niger, the new refugee arrivals have been in the Diffa region of south-east Niger. Refugees say they fled a January 16 mosque attack in the village of Gashagar just across the border. Seven people were reportedly killed during the attack, and seven cars were burned as well as 60 shops. The refugees are being hosted by local communities and most are women and children. UNHCR is sending relief aid.

A government census released last November showed that some 37,000 people including 8,000 Nigerians and 30,000 Niger nationals who were living in Nigeria have been displaced into the Diffa region since May 2013. In early December, the Niger government issued a decree granting temporary refugee status to Nigerians who fled the three states under states of emergency in Nigeria.

We continue to urge states in the region to keep their borders open for Nigerians who are fleeing their country and may need international protection. We are also advising against any forced returns. Our recommendations are contained in a Return Advisory issued last October, which seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the insecure situation in north-eastern Nigeria.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar: Helene Caux, Senior Public Information Officer, caux@unhcr.org, tel: + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Cameroon, Ndeye Ndour, Representative, ndour@unhcr.org, tel: +237 79516767
  • In Nigeria: Angele Dikongue-Atangana, Representative, dikongue@unhcr.org, tel: +234 8181530428
  • In Niger, Karl Steinacker, Representative, steinack@unhcr.org, tel: +227 92193146
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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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

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