Thousands of refugees flee insurgent attacks in north-east Nigeria

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 9 January 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In western Chad, some 7,300 Nigerian refugees have arrived in the past 10 days, fleeing attacks by insurgents on Baga town and surrounding villages in northeast Nigeria. UNHCR teams in Chad are at the border and seeking more information on the new arrivals and their needs. The attack on Baga left hundreds of people dead according to media reports and forced most of its inhabitants to flee.

In Chad, refugees are staying with local communities in villages around 450 kilometers north-west of the capital, N'Djamena. The Chadian government has requested the assistance of aid agencies to help the refugees and distribution of relief items has already started. UNHCR is assessing the protection situation and coordinating aid delivery. We're already providing plastic sheets, jerry cans, mats, blankets and kitchen tools. Other humanitarian organizations are distributing aid too.

Chadian authorities visited the area on Thursday and requested UNHCR to help with the relocation of over 1,000 refugees who are reportedly stranded on the island of Kangala on Lake Chad. The group recently arrived there, fleeing the general insecurity in north-east Nigeria. With the recent influxes, Chad is now hosting over 10,000 refugees.

Meanwhile in Niger, UNHCR has started to relocate refugees from Gagamari at the border further inland to Sayam Forage camp in Diffa region. So far, 336 refugees have been moved in three convoys since December 30. More convoys are planned in the next days. The refugees are among the thousands of people who fled to the Gagamari area in the past weeks following November's attack on the Nigerian town of Damassak. A second camp is scheduled to open in the next days in Kablewa, in the Lake Chad area of Niger, where thousands of people have found refuge in the past months.

On arrival in Sayam Forage camp, refugees are being registered by UNHCR and the National Eligibility Commission of Niger. They receive identity documents and plastic sheets, kitchen kits, blankets, mats, and soap. Drinking water is being delivered by trucks and emergency latrines have been built. Not all refugees are choosing to be relocated away from the border. Despite the proximity of the conflict in Nigeria, many are hoping to return to their home villages when the situation calms.

In December, the first results of a still ongoing governmental census, organized with UNHCR technical support, revealed that at least 90,000 persons, including Niger national previously living in Nigeria, have found refuge in Niger's Diffa region since May 2013.

In all, the conflict in north-east Nigeria has led to the exodus of 135,000 people - around 35,000 Nigerians to Cameroon and 10,000 to Chad and the displacement of at least 850,000 people within Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar (Regional), Helene Caux on mobile + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Chad, Mamadou Dian Balde on mobile: + 235 680 005 21
  • In Niger, Karl Steinacker on mobile: + 227 921 931 46
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011