Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on returns to northeast Nigeria
I am extremely worried that large numbers of Nigerian refugees hosted in Cameroon are again returning to northeast Nigeria - into a situation dangerously unprepared to receive them.
Three weeks ago UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency warned about the situation in the Nigerian border town of Banki where thousands were returning.
Shelter was lacking, there was severe overcrowding, water supplies and sanitation facilities were wholly inadequate, humanitarian aid was in short supply, and with the rainy season approaching there was a risk of disease. Even before the returns, Banki was hosting some 45,000 internally displaced people.
Now a further 889 Nigerian refugees, most of them children, have arrived. Having travelled from Minawao camp in Cameroon they reached Banki on 17th June.
It is my firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time. UNHCR has already stepped up information efforts in Minawao camp to ensure that refugees are given accurate information on the conditions in Banki before they make the choice to return.
In Banki a strengthened inter-agency effort to address the existing situation must be a priority. We are working with the authorities and humanitarian actors to ensure that returnees are quickly screened, and receive food, shelter and other basic household support.
The new arrivals - and we hear reports of more refugees seeking to return - put a strain on the few existing services. A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs.
The Tripartite Commission, established with UNHCR and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon needs to hold its first meeting as soon as possible to outline the minimum conditions needed for returns and discuss how to address these spontaneous movements.
- In Geneva, Vannina Maestracci, [email protected] +41 79 108 35 32
- In Dakar, Romain Desclous, [email protected], +221 77 786 396 385