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Continuing violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria
forces 13,000 people to flee into Cameroon

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Continuing violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria
forces 13,000 people to flee into Cameroon

11 November 2014

Violence by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria's northeast continues to send thousands of refugees across the border into neighbouring Cameroon. According to Cameroonian authorities, some 13,000 Nigerian refugees crossed from Adamawa state after insurgents attacked and captured the town of Mubi in late October. The refugees fled to the towns of Guider and Gashiga in the North region of Cameroon and to Bourha, Mogode and Boukoula in the Far North.

According to local authorities in Cameroon, the vast majority of these 13,000 Nigerians have now returned to Nigeria, saying that their final destination was Yola, the capital city of Adamawa state, about 200 kilometres south of Mubi.

In the days immediately following the attack on Mubi, it was reported that refugees arrived in Cameroon in over 300 vehicles - including many personal vehicles, as well as some trucks and rented cars. The Cameroonian authorities reported that they facilitated onward transit movements and provided escorts to ensure the safety of those transiting through Cameroonian territory.

On the Nigeria side, a UNHCR team confirmed that thousands of Nigerians are now being hosted at Girei (Gombe State) and at the National Youth Service Centre in Yola (one of five sites in Adamawa State hosting internally displaced persons). The newcomers are receiving assistance from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the National Red Cross Society and the International Rescue Committee.

In Yola, UNHCR has interviewed some of the people who transited through Cameroon before re-entering Nigeria. The vast majority of them are women and children. They told our teams that many families were forced to flee on foot, taking few belongings with them and walking tens of kilometres before finding safety in Cameroon. We are also examining claims that some of these refugees may have been forced to return to Nigeria. We are seeking assurances from both Nigeria and Cameroon that the return of these people was done on a voluntary basis. Cameroon is hosting thousands of refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic. We encourage Cameroon to continue with its policy of welcoming refugees.

In other areas in the Far North region that border Nigeria's Borno state, Cameroonian authorities continue to report regular attempts by insurgents to carry out incursions into Cameroonian territory, frequently launching attacks from their strongholds on the Nigerian side of the border. Before the latest attacks in Mubi, Cameroonian authorities had confirmed that over 43,000 Nigerians had sought refuge in Cameroon, of whom close to 17,000 are currently living at Minawao refugee camp managed by UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies.

Meanwhile in Niger, at least 1,000 people have arrived in the Bosso area, in the south of the country, following the capture by insurgents last week of the garrison town of Malam Fatori. The Nigerian town is located only a few kilometres from the border with Niger. The new arrivals in Bosso say that Malam Fatori is now almost empty, as most inhabitants have fled without taking any belongings with them. Children show signs of trauma. At this point, it is difficult to know exactly how many people have arrived in the past few days.

The crisis in the northeast of Nigeria has led to the flight of over 100,000 people to Niger since May 2013 (this includes both Nigerian refugees and citizens of Niger) according to the local authorities, as well as 2,700 refugees to Chad. At the same time, over 650,000 people are internally displaced in Nigeria's six north-eastern States.

UNHCR recently updated its return advisory regarding people fleeing northeastern Nigeria (International Protection Considerations with regard to people fleeing northeastern Nigeria (the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa) and surrounding region - Update I). We are urging States to keep their borders open for Nigerians fleeing the country and who may be in need of international protection. The Advisory seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the ongoing insecure situation in north-eastern Nigeria.

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