Nigerian Refugees: Cameroon Government Refutes Allegations of Forced Return

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Nigerian Refugees: Government Refutes Allegations of Forced Return


Below is a Government’s Statement on the allegations of forced return of Nigerian refugees organized by Cameroonian authorities. It was read to the press yesterday by Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary.
The spokesman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees pointed out, during a press conference granted on March 21, 2017 in Geneva, the concerns of the UNHCR relating to the alleged forceful repatriation by Cameroon of Nigerian refugees since the beginning of the year 2016. He notably described a situation “where some refugees who were arrested during a military attack against the Boko Haram insurgency, were transported in trucks to a camp of the displaced persons at Banki. Among those forcibly returned were found a one year old child and a woman who was nine months pregnant who latter put to birth a day after their arrival at Banki.”

The Government of Cameroon strongly refutes these ungrounded and particularly unjust allegations which are somehow intended to undermine the image of a country whose meritorious efforts to host refugees are unanimously lauded, including by the High Commissioner for Refugees.
With regard to the facts on the ground, it is important to highlight that, on March 20, 2017, while fleeing the Nigerian army operations against the Boko Haram terrorist group, 841 Nigerian nationals, including 154 men, 288 women and 399 children, found themselves in Cameroon. They were welcomed by the elements of the Cameroonian army based in the Lafia locality, who, with the means at their disposal, gave them all the necessary assistance in terms of food and medical care.

Considering the general fatigue conditions of these refugees, in which some sustained injuries through bullets, coupled with the remote location of the Minawao camp, the Cameroonian authorities, under the effective supervision of the local HCR bureau and in collaboration with the relevant Nigerian authorities, undertook to organize their safe return in their country. For this purpose, civilian trucks were requisitioned in support of military vehicles. In all, 905 Nigerian nationals (over sixty new refugees who were added to the other 841), were regrouped and transported to Banki in Nigeria, and handed over to the Nigerian authorities, in the morning of March 21, 2017. None of them expressed the desire to stay in Cameroon.

These operations took place in strict compliance with the provisions contained in the Tripartite Agreement signed on March 2, 2017 as part of the voluntary return of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon.

The Government of Cameroon would like to express its profound disapproval and to raise the strongest possible protest against the aforementioned allegations which are profoundly unjust and unacceptable. In matters of hospitality, Cameroon has no lesson to learn from anyone. The country has always hosted a good number of refugees who find asylum in our territory. The local Cameroonian authorities, known for their legendary hospitality and solidarity, have always spontaneously hosted these helpless persons. Notwithstanding the end of conflicts which justified their departure from their country of origin, many refugees have nevertheless chosen to stay in Cameroon
  
Today, Cameroon hosts over 550,000 refugees, mostly nationals of the Central African Republic and Nigeria. But there are also some former Chadian, Rwandan and Burundian refugees. With regard to Nigerian refugees, more than 87,000 persons are currently present in Cameroon. Over 60,000 of these Nigerian refugees are hosted in the Minawao camp, initially set up for 20, 000 people and whose hosting capacity is today far exceeded. Thousands of other Nigerian refugees are received by host families, yet with very limited resources. This influx of refugees is a particularly heavy burden for public authorities, as well as host communities who do not have enough resources but have to bear considerable pressure.

The paramount responsibility of the Cameroonian Government relates to its own populations, who are suffering a great deal as a result of the current security crisis and its consequences. To date, the Far-North Region of Cameroon records over 200,000 internally displaced persons who have been obliged to abandon their houses and activities in border areas due to Boko Haram atrocities. They have been relocated in other villages away from the border. Yet, in the same vein it has been established that only a small part of the Nigerian territory is affected by the atrocities of the Boko Haram terrorist group. It would therefore appear logical that Nigerian nationals who are running away from the areas that are wreaked by this sect be relocated in more secure parts of their country

This is also the substance of the Cameroon/Nigeria/UNHCR Tripartite Agreement of March 2, 2017. Cameroon, despite its generosity and sense of hospitality, does not intend to become a vast open-air refugee camp.

Cameroon has served – and continues to serve – as sanctuary for a number of helpless persons. Rather than being criticized, Cameroon needs an increased support from the international community to be able to bear the burden of this humanitarian crisis, in order to ensure decent living conditions and guarantee a promising future to refugees and displaced persons. The aforementioned ungrounded allegations can offend and frustrate the populations who have always showcased generosity towards refugees.

Cameroon reaffirms that it intends to continue keeping to its international commitments in matters of assistance and protection of refugees, and to remain faithful to the compassionate attitude that has always directed its actions in response to the distress of people seeking asylum on its territory.”

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute our legal or professional advice. Readers are advised not to act on the basis of the information contained herein alone. Every situation depends on its own facts and circumstances. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein without consulting a professional legal practitioner.

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