NE Nigeria insecurity sees refugee outflows spreading to Cameroon

News Stories, 18 June 2013

© UNHCR/C.Arnaud
Ismael Bahla fled with his three wives and 13 children from Nigeria to Niger. Many Nigerians from Borno state have left since fighting began in May between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram.

GENEVA, 18 June (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday the on-going crisis in northeastern Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States is causing new arrivals of refugees in Niger, and now in Cameroon.

"In Cameroon, a UNHCR team visited areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border in the Far North region on Friday," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a briefing in Geneva. "They reported the presence of over 3,000 Nigerians."

Crossings of Nigerians into Cameroon began a week ago, with people reporting they had fled a confrontation between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram insurgents some 10 kilometres from border.

Most of those who have arrived are women and children. They are being hosted in churches and schools, and rely on food from churches and local population. UNHCR said it was working with the authorities to relocate the refugees to safer places away from the border.

Meanwhile in Niger, the UN refugee agency said it had sent aid by trucks from Niamey to the southeastern Diffa region, where over 6,000 persons have arrived from northern Nigeria in the past weeks. That includes 2,692 Nigerian nationals as well as 3,544 returning Niger nationals and others, mainly Chadians. Mats, blankets, jerry cans, soap, buckets, mosquito nets and kitchen items have been pre-positioned in Diffa, Bosso, Kablewa and Menesewa for distribution to both Nigerian refugees and Nigerian returnees.

"Most new arrivals in Niger are women and children coming from rural villages across the border and from Maiduguri and Baga towns," said Edwards.

People are still arriving in Niger. On 11 June, gunshots were heard in Malam Fatouri, a village on the Nigeria side, near the border, prompting most of the population to flee into Niger, UNHCR said. They travelled by foot and motorcycles and found refuge with host families just across the border.

Hundreds of new arrivals have also been reported in an area some 60 km north of Diffa, local authorities told UNHCR. At the same time, UNHCR teams observed that some displaced persons from Nigeria are returning home after a few days in Niger or shuttling between the two countries depending on the security situation in Nigeria.

In Chad there have been no further arrivals of Nigerians beyond the 155 received last week. There the border is officially closed.

The Nigerian government imposed a state of emergency on the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the northeast of the country in May.

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2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

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

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

Some 60,000 Malian civilians have found refuge in Niger this year, fleeing fighting in northern Mali as well as political instability in the whole country. Most are hosted in three official camps - Tabareybarey, Mangaize and Abala. A significant number are living in spontaneous settlements. All are located in harsh arid countryside where life is tough despite the assistance provided by UNHCR and other aid agencies.

Children are the most vulnerable group, with some suffering from acute malnutrition. Older children are looking forward to resuming their education in a foreign land. Meanwhile, some 6,000 refugees are living in the Niger capital, Niamey, where many of them look for work so that they can send money back to relatives still in Mali.

Meanwhile, the future remains uncertain. Many people fear that continuing fighting inside Mali could lead to an accelerated exodus of refugees from Mali into neighbouring countries, including Niger.

The following photographs by UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux depict life for the refugees in Tabareybarey and Mangaize camps as well as in Niamey.

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

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