Refugees fleeing unrest in Northeast Nigeria.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, on Thursday in Abuja said Nigeria had more than 17,000 asylum-seekers in Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Angele Dikongue-Atangana, told journalists the situation was due to the security crisis in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.
Thousands of people have been killed by insurgents, members of the Boko Haram, in separate attacks in Northern Nigeria with the majority occurring in the North-Eastern states of Borno and Yobe. A state of emergency is currently ongoing in the two states as well as Adamawa.
The United States government on Wednesday announced the declaration of the Boko Haram as an international terrorist organisation. The group had earlier been declared so by the Nigerian government.
Ms. Dikongue-Atangana said about 36,000 persons had fled the North-Eastern region in search of refuge in the neighbouring countries.
Quoting a research carried out by UNHCR and the Niger Authority, she said 19,000 persons out of these were from Chad and Niger, and they had returned home.
“The UNHCR is working in collaboration with these countries to ensure that the refugee situation of the asylum-seekers is determined so as to guarantee their safety,” she said.
The official added that insecurity continued to top the list of the challenges facing the commission as thousands of people were continuously rendered homeless.
“The world is facing its most serious refugee crisis for almost 20 years, as conflicts continue to force tens and hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
“War remains the dominant cause for displacement as over half the world’s refugees come from war-affected countries.
“The humanitarian situation in West-Africa has worsened notably due to insecurity and high unemployment rate, as well as drought,” she said.
Ms. Dikongue-Atangana said Nigeria was host to 1,865 refugees at the end of October 2013, with 1,465 pending asylum requests.
She said the largest refugee populations residing in the country were from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.
“Among the 1,865 refugees in Nigeria, Cameroon has 865 persons, Congo 558 persons, Cote d’Ivoire 92, Chad 66 and Sudan 45, while others are 239 persons,” the UNHCR official said.
She also said 244 Malians had sought refuge in Nigeria since the beginning of the Malian crisis, making it the third largest asylum-seeking group in Nigeria.
Ms. Dikongue-Atangana explained that the refugee population declined to less than half last year with the invocation of the ceased circumstances cessation clause for the Liberian refugees as at June 30, 2012.
She said the UNHCR had completed the durable solutions strategy for Liberians, adding that 1,284 of them had been locally integrated in Nigeria and 1,719 had returned to Liberia.
The commissioner called for improved collaboration with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally-Displaced Persons and other related bodies.
“The others are the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the Human Rights Commission for a continued upgrade of the well-being of refugees,’’ she said.