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Cameroon, Niger, Chad host 245,000 Nigerian refugees, says UNHCR

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Canhandula, UNCHR representative


United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) ha said that about 245,000 Nigerians, mostly from the North East, are seeking refuge in Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

UNHCR representative in Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Antonio Canhandula, disclosed this in Abuja yesterday at the Nigeria consultative meeting on the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) programme. GCR is a project formulated to ease pressure on countries hosting refugees and to support conditions in countries of refugees’ origin for safety return and dignity.

Canhandula said 94,000 Nigerian refugees from the North East were in Cameroon, 112,000 in Niger and 12,000 in Chad.Aside from the North East, the insurgency in the North West also created an outflow of 27,000 refugees to Niger, he said, adding that 46,000 Cameroonian refugees were in Nigeria, with majority in Cross River State.

“There are 5,600 Cameroonian refugees in Taraba, 6,400 in Benue and the rest in Cross River,” he said. He explained that 900,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Adamawa had since returned to their homes and that normalcy had been restored in most parts of the state.

“The total IDP population that is accessible is different from those that receive assistance. The total accessible is 1.8 million and those receiving assistance is 1.2 million.

“In Adamawa, many IDPs have returned to their councils because the areas are now safe. But they are still in a poor state because the infrastructure needs to be fixed after all these years,” he said.On the reported forceful ejection of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, the global refugee agency clarified: “There were cases of Nigerians being forced back to unsafe areas. But that was mostly in 2017. It was less in 2018, and for 2019, we can say there are no longer forceful ejections of Nigerian refugees. So the situation has tremendously improved.”

Speaking on repatriation of Nigerian refugees, the UN envoy said that some strategies were being put to place to that effect.His words, “We should also know that there is a tripartite agreement between Nigerian and Cameroonian governments and UNHCR. It was signed in 2017, which lays down the conditions under which repatriation should take place, meaning conditions of voluntariness and safety.

“The government has availed aircraft for the return of refugees to Adamawa two months ago and it is being carried out.”Head of Refugee Division in the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Dahiru Bagiwa, said Nigerians repatriated from Libya were being rehabilitated.

“We have so many cases of migrant recently from Libya and Europe, and there have been good arrangements for their returns in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations and European Union. “We have a transit camp for them because when they come they don’t know where to go due to the fact that they lost touch with their environment.

“There is also a training programme for them. The case of South Africa is however unique. Most of them have their business there and the Federal government is taken care of the issue. “For those from Libya, we put them in the transit camp, give them training and reunite them with their family.”


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Antonio CanhandulaUNHCR
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