The United Nations Refugee Agency on Tuesday said violence by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria’s northeast continues to send thousands of refugees across the border into neighbouring Cameroon.
UN High Commissioner for Refugee, UNHCR, said that 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 of Adamawa state, south of Mubi.
However, 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 in Gombe State and at the National Youth Service Centre in Yola.
Meanwhile, newcomers were 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 report added that the vast majority of them were women and children.
UNHCR said 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,” the UNCHR said. “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 Central African Republic and we encourage Cameroon to continue with its policy of welcoming refugees,’’ UNHCR said.
In its statement, UNHCR urged States to keep their borders open for Nigerians fleeing the country and who may be in need of international protection.
According to the UN agency, its advisory seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the ongoing insecure situation in north-eastern Nigeria. (PANA/NAN)