Deadly attacks reported in Nigeria's Lake Chad region, more people fleeing

Briefing Notes, 11 March 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 11 March 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is increasingly alarmed at the humanitarian impact of the violence in north-eastern Nigeria. Newly-arriving refugees interviewed by our staff in Niger have spoken of atrocities on the islands and shores of Lake Chad in Nigeria's northeast Borno State. One woman described corpses strewn through houses and floating in the water. She said people feared staying even to bury their dead or find missing relatives. Others recounted fleeing a village shooting incident and said women and children were being kidnapped and taken away by unidentified assailants.

The latest attacks are reported to have begun in mid-February and were continuing five days ago. In all some 2000 people have crossed into southeast Niger's Diffa region over the past four weeks according to our partner, the International Rescue Committee (IRC). In addition to the attacks on Lake Chad, some of the newly arriving refugees have come from areas near Borno's state capital Maiduguri affected by fighting.

UNHCR reiterates to all parties to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria the vital importance of protecting civilians from harm. The ongoing insurgency in the three northeastern Nigerian states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno has already displaced more than 470,000 people inside Nigeria. Refugees arriving in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger are in addition to this.

Since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states, more than 57,000 people have fled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Some 17,000 of these are registered Nigerian refugees. The rest are nationals of the surrounding countries who were had been living in Nigeria for decades.

Niger has received the majority some 40,000 concentrated in the Diffa region, a desert in the country's eastern edge.

UNHCR is grateful to the government of Niger for its Open Door policies towards the forcibly displaced from Nigeria and to the local population sharing their meagre resources with an ever increasing number of refugees.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar: Helene Caux (Regional) on mobile + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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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

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
Play video

Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.
Niger: New Arrivals in AroyouPlay video

Niger: New Arrivals in Aroyou

Among the more than 300,000 forcibly displaced Malians, more than 2,600 found shelter in Aroyou, Niger. Despite their ordeal, they took part in recent events to mark World Refugee Day.
Niger: New Camp in NigerPlay video

Niger: New Camp in Niger

A new tented refugee camp is under construction in Mangaizé, Niger. UNHCR is putting up family tents to replace the makeshift shelters that people have been living in for weeks.