The UN has expressed concern over the forced return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon in spite of recent tripartite agreement aimed at ensuring voluntary returns of nationals.
The refugees are part of the millions displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria. Majority of the displaced are internal within Nigeria with neighbouring countries like Cameroon and Niger hosting the others.
About 100,000 people have been killed since the insurgency started in 2009.
According to a statement from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday, Cameroon has forcefully returned more than 2,600 refugees back to Nigerian border villages “against their will”.
UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Balogh, said in the statement that the organisation was particularly concerned “as these forced returns have continued unabated”.
Mr. Balogh recalled that the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon signed a tripartite agreement with UNHCR in Yaoundé on March 2, 2017.
He said that the forced return of asylum-seekers and refugees was a “serious violation” of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, which he said, Cameroon had ratified.
He, however, commended Cameroon for its generosity in hosting more than 85,000 Nigerian refugees but urged it to honour its obligations under international and regional refugee protection instruments.
The spokesman said that refugees had fled violent attacks from Boko Haram and urged that “their access to asylum and protection must be ensured”.
“Insecurity persists in parts of north-eastern Nigeria and access to basic services remains limited.
“Most returning refugees find themselves in situations of internal displacement upon return and are unable to return to their places of origin,” he stated.
He also said that UNHCR recognised the legitimate national security concerns of the Cameroon Government.