UNHCR: At least 15,000 Cameroonian refugees flee to Nigeria

More than 15,000 Cameroonian refugees have fled to Nigeria amid a crackdown on Anglophone separatists, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency and Nigerian government officials said on Thursday

The UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Antonio Jose Canhandula, conducted a fact-finding mission to Benue state, North Central and Cross River state, South-South Nigeria from 8 to 10th January, 2018 where he interacted with Cameroonian refugees in the Abande, Kwande Local Government Area (LGA), Utanga and Amana in Obanliku LGA.

“We are committed to working with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that we provide a safe community environment for Cameroonian refugees and their host communities in Benue and Cross River states”, said Canhandula. “As such, our recommendation is that the refugees should be moved away from the border per international standards”, he added.

More than 8,000 refugees have been registered in the southeastern state of Cross River alone, said Antonio Jose Canhandula, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) representative in Nigeria, at a briefing in Abuja.

He further noted that the 40,000 figure that was earlier stated was for contingency plan and not the actual figure of registered Cameroonian refugees in the country.

“We have worked with our partners since this crisis started; we have prepared a contingency plan and the contingency plan has a figure.

“That figure in the plan should not be used as the figure of refugees that are in the country already. With the contingency plan, it means that we are preparing the resources.

“In case we reach that number, the contingency figure is 40,000 so far, which can be reversed,” the UNHCR representative said.

A further 6,700 or so Cameroonian refugees have crossed into neighboring Benue state, said Sadiya Umar Farouq, the head of Nigeria’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, citing Benue officials.

There are also at least 350 refugees in the states of Taraba and Akwa Ibom, said Tamuno Dienye Jaja, deputy comptroller general of the Nigeria Immigration Service. The refugees are mostly children, women and the elderly, with very few young men, the officials said.

Antonio Jose Canhandula expresses his appreciation to the Government of Nigeria for the support shown so far and appreciate the efforts of the state authorities for the relief assistance provided to those arriving from Cameroon

The situation could worsen if a solution to the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone region is not quickly found. UNHCR is concerned that as the crisis in Cameroon continues and the government adopts extra security measures, more asylum seekers will arrive. Political dialogue is also needed, as it will help end the current crisis.

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