Refugee herdsmen return to Nigeria

News Stories, 18 April 2005

© UNHCR/Geographic Information and Mapping Unit

BANYO, Cameroon, April 18 (UNHCR) A group of 420* refugee herdsmen today returned to Nigeria from Cameroon, where they had been seeking shelter since fleeing clashes in their homeland three years ago. Many more are expected to follow later, travelling on foot with their livestock.

This morning, the group left Banyo in north-western Cameroon's Adamaoua province in 26 six-wheel-drive jeeps designed to withstand the rough terrain. They travelled on bumpy roads at 3-5 km/hr towards the Kanyaka border crossing with Nigeria. From there, the refugees will proceed to Taraba state in the east.

"The women and children had excited smiles on their faces," observed UNHCR Representative in Cameroon Jacques Franquin, who was travelling with the convoy. "They said they were very happy to be able to go home in safety and dignity. They thanked the Cameroonian government for its hospitality, and UNHCR for making their return possible."

He noted however, that some of the returning refugees were rather anxious, unsure of what to expect at home.

The group is part of 30,000 Nigerian refugees mostly Muslim herdsmen of the Fulani tribe who fled Taraba state following clashes with the Mambila Christian farmer community in 2002. Many subsequently returned home, leaving 17,000 in Cameroon's Adamaoua and Nord-Ouest provinces.

Preparations for repatriation started in August last year, after an evaluation mission by UNHCR, other UN agencies and representatives of donor countries concluded that peace and security had been restored in Taraba state and that it was now safe for return.

UNHCR started repatriating the refugees to Nigeria last December. Today's return convoy was the second one for the group of 17,000 still in Cameroon. Another 220* are expected to return on Tuesday. In all, the agency plans to help 5,000 Nigerian refugees home this year, and is making arrangements for those who wish to return on foot with their livestock.

Signing the official tripartite repatriation agreement with the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon last week, UNHCR's Franquin thanked the Cameroonian authorities for allowing the refugees to settle in the villages, where they roam freely. The government's flexibility, he said, "saved the refugees as it is hard to imagine how these semi-nomadic people who are accustomed to travelling great distances so their livestock could graze, would have made it had they been parked in camps, deprived of their ancestral style of living."

By Fatoumata Kaba

* Figures amended on April 19




UNHCR country pages

Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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