On-going violence in Nigeria continues to displace people to neighbouring countries

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 October 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As insurgent groups intensify their campaign of rebellion and terror in Nigeria's north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, Nigerian refugees have been fleeing across the border into northern Cameroon, Niger and Chad. In the last two months, the number of new arrivals has increased significantly.

Since May 2013, when a state of emergency was declared by Nigeria in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, over 100,000 people crossed to Niger according to Niger authorities. These include both Nigerians fleeing across the border and citizens of Niger obliged to return to their home country. Both groups are dispersed among the local population and are receiving community-based protection and assistance.

Earlier this month, on 2 October, some 2,200 people fled the Nigerian village of Gueskhar (located two kilometers from the border with Niger) after a brutal attack by insurgents. The refugees crossed by boat the Kamadougou River, which marks the border between the two countries, and arrived to Guesseré village on the Niger bank. They told us that they had fled after insurgents asked them to join their ranks or be killed. According to the refugees, the insurgents set fire to government buildings and forced the Nigerian security forces to leave the village.

The refugees in Guesseré are sleeping under trees in the village school yard, while others are accommodated with host families or found refuge in other villages where they have relatives. This is the second time this year that the population of Gueskhar has sought refuge in Guesseré. After a similar incident in January, the entire village population crossed into Niger but later returned home.

The village of Bosso, which is located one hundred kilometers from Diffa town, and close to Lake Chad, has since the beginning of October also witnessed an influx of thousands of people, mainly from the villages of Malam Fatouri, Metele and Kangarwa in Nigeria's Borno State. People told us that insurgents asked them to embrace their cause and to provide them with 50 young men to join their struggle. Villagers said they escaped in small groups at night, before reaching Niger, but that they are worried about family members and friends they left behind. They have no news from them.

The presence of arrivals from Nigeria is putting a huge strain on the local communities' meager resources. In areas such as Bosso, the absorption capacity of the local population is overstretched. The Government of Niger has requested UNHCR to rapidly construct temporary sites to accommodate the new arrivals but shelter, water, health, and food are still lacking. UNHCR and its partners urgently need funding to assist the displaced from Nigeria and the local population hosting them.

In total, more than 62,000 people have found refuge in the Diffa region of Niger since the beginning of 2014, according our partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC). This population is spread over more than 140 towns, villages and islands on Lake Chad. This situation, coupled with regular back and forth movements between the two countries, makes it difficult for our teams and local authorities to provide more precise figures. In the next weeks, the Government of Niger, with UNHCR support, will undertake a census in order to have a better idea of numbers of people and their needs.

The Nigeria crisis continues to also affect Cameroon which is now hosting some 44,000 Nigerian refugees, with 15,335 in the Minawao camp. Our teams have begun to transfer the refugees still dispersed in the border areas to Minawao, amid a volatile security situation in the area and considerable logistical challenges. The camp, meanwhile, has reached its current capacity of 15,000 people and efforts are ongoing to expand it. Shelter, health and WASH facilities need to be expanded urgently to address the needs of the refugees. Efforts have been made to strengthen the capacity of the office to respond, further support is also needed.

In Chad, the number of new arrivals so far is relatively limited, with approximately 1,500 Nigerian refugees having been registered.

UNHCR is activating various emergency procedures and policies for response in all the affected countries.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar, Hélène Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91
  • In Niger, Benoit Moreno on mobile + 227 92192417
  • In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011