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More than 6,000 people flee to Niger from north-east Nigeria

News Stories, 11 June 2013

DAKAR, Senegal, June 11 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the crisis in north-eastern Nigeria has forced more than 6,000 mainly women, children and older people to seek safety in neighbouring Niger.

"Those UNCHR has spoken to say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown on insurgents linked to the Boko Haram sect, particularly in the Baga area of northern Nigeria, close to the Niger border," spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists.

Refugees report that air strikes by government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where a state of emergency has been in force since May 14.

"People arriving in Niger also mention the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several states in Nigeria. Rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected states," UNHCR's Edwards noted.

Niger has so far received 6,240 people, comprising Nigerian nationals (2,692) returning Niger nationals (3,544), and 94 people of other nationalities (mainly Chadians). Once their families are secure in Niger, men are returning to Nigeria to work and to sustain their families' needs.

Many new arrivals have walked into Niger, taking refuge in villages located close to the border. Others, who fled areas located as far as 300 kilometres away, such as Maidougouri in Nigeria, have used cars or motorbikes.

New arrivals are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions. UNHCR staff have also met some Nigerian families living out in the open in border villages.

Edwards said that although the local population has welcomed the new arrivals, the presence of newcomers is also putting a strain on meagre local food and water resources. Niger struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought. UNHCR plans to deliver some aid to the new arrivals as well as to the host community. The agency is also helping the local authorities to register new arrivals.

UNHCR has monitored the arrival of new arrivals in Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks. There are 155 Nigerian asylum seekers in Chad along with 716 Chadian nationals. In Cameroon there are 1,200 returned nationals.

Meanwhile, the security situation in Nigeria remains extremely difficult. UNHCR is not present in the parts of the north-east that are under a state of emergency. Information about the humanitarian situation in the north-east is consequently limited.

In Adamawa state, insecurity is reportedly worst in the areas of military operations close to the Cameroonian border. Most of the north-east suffers from chronic and periodic insecurity due to conflict and insurgent activities.

By Hélène Caux in Dakar, Senegal

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UNHCR country pages

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

One year after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, violence continues to displace people within Nigeria and to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, including some 22,000 Nigerian refugees. Civilians trapped at home face recurrent attacks by insurgents, with a series of kidnappings and killings culminating in mid-April this year in the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno.

UNHCR's Hélène Caux recently travelled to the region to meet with some of the 250,000 internally displaced, including students caught up in the violence. Those she spoke to told her about their fears, and the atrocities and suffering they had endured or witnessed. People spoke about their homes and fields being destroyed, grenade attacks on markets, the killing of friends and relatives, and arbitrary arrests. Uniting them is an overwhelming sense of terror. Caux found it a challenge to photograph people who live in constant fear of being attacked. "It was this delicate balance to try to achieve between featuring them, communicating their stories and protecting them," she said.

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

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