Tag Archives: Nigeria refugees

Nigeria – 30,000 displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

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displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, says 30,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who fled the state at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency have returned home.

Abdullahi Umar, the spokesperson of the agency, said in a statement issued in Maiduguri on Wednesday that the figure was part of the 78,000 IDPs that fled the state to Cameroon during the period.

Mr. Umar said that the returnees were part of the 43,000 IDPs that signified interest to return home.

He said the displaced persons were being kept in a camp at Banki in Bama Local Government Area of the state.

He said that a team of SEMA officials had already visited the camp to assess their condition.

“The SEMA Executive Secretary, Malam Alkali Goni, has led a delegation of the agency to Banki to assess the conditions of the IDPs,” he said.

The spokesman also said that the IDPs had been assured that the State Government had made adequate provisions for their welfare.

He quoted Baba Shehu, the Caretaker Chairman of the local government, as thanking the state government for the gesture and promising judicious use of the items donated.

Regional armies struggle to crush Nigeria’s Boko Haram

Reuters

Niger’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum speaks to people at the Boudouri site for displaced persons, outside the town of Diffa, in southeastern Niger, June 18, 2016. Picture taken June 18, 2016.
REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

“You’ll all be able to go home soon. Boko Haram is nearly finished,” Niger’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told a crowd of refugees seated quietly on dusty, sun-baked flats.

His words of optimism were belied by the dozens-strong security detail required to protect him as he toured his country’s southern border.

Seven years into an insurgency that spread from Nigeria into Chad, Niger and Cameroon, regional armies are now in a final push to defeat Boko Haram, a once obscure Islamist sect turned deadly militant group.

But lingering divisions in the countries’ multi-national joint task force (MNJTF) are complicating that mission.

“If there’s no strategy to attack Boko Haram together, we won’t ever finish with them,” Mahamadou Liman Ali, an opposition lawmaker from southern Niger, told Reuters in Niamey.

At a time when the world’s wealthy nations are focused on the fight against Islamic State and al Qaeda, financial support for the MNJTF’s efforts against Boko Haram, which has pledged its allegiance to IS, have fallen short of targets.

That has left the task force’s members – including Chad, the region’s capable but increasingly reluctant military powerhouse – to shoulder the bulk of the costs of fighting the group.

Boko Haram’s victims, which include 2.4 million displaced, live in hope that this month-old offensive – dubbed Operation Gama Aiki, or “finish the job” in the local Hausa language – might succeed where others have failed.

Some have doubts. From where he stays in southern Niger, refugee Usman Kanimbu sees smoke rising from the coalition’s air strikes on insurgent positions in Nigeria, the home he fled.

“We’ve fled eight times. Each time we arrive somewhere Boko Haram attacks again. We would keep running, but we can’t afford to anymore,” he said. “I’m not sure this will ever end.”

FRAGILE PROGRESS

As the sun sets over the Nigerian border, a featureless expanse of sand and scrub trees, soldiers from Niger peered over an earthen bern at territory held by Boko Haram.

The skies above the borderlands now rumble daily with the sound of fighter jets. Chadian troops have ventured onto Lake Chad, a Boko Haram stronghold. Regional military officers say they are taking back ground from the insurgents.

The task force may indeed be making headway against Boko Haram, which has fewer footholds than it once did. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, may even be dead.

But the MNJTF is a far cry from what it was conceived to be, a dedicated 8,700-strong force blending soldiers from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin.

Instead, the nations rely on their own armies to deal with Boko Haram threats. Troops from Chad, which has the region’s strongest military, reinforce when needed then head back home.

“Each force is based in its country of origin. There’s no integrated force with battalions moving in perfect coordination,” said Vincent Foucher, West Africa researcher at International Crisis Group (ICG).

The need for operational integration in the fight against an enemy that knows no borders was exposed during a similar regional offensive early last year.

After troops from Chad and Niger drove Boko Haram from a string of towns in Nigeria’s far north, they waited in vain for the Nigerian army to arrive and hold them.

“We were there for three or four months, but the Nigerian troops that were meant to take over from us were not ready,” Niger’s Brigadier General Abdou Sidikou Issa told Reuters.

Niger and Chad withdrew, according to a source with knowledge of the operation, because they feared becoming an occupying force. Issa said the troops were overstretched logistically, however. Either way, the vacuum they left allowed Boko Haram to reclaim positions and carry on cross-border raids.

“That’s what’s created problems for us again today,” Issa said.

The MNJTF was meant to prevent a repeat of those kinds of incidents. The African Union endorsed the force in January 2015 and a headquarters was established in Chad’s capital N’Djamena to coordinate forces against the ever-evolving threat of Boko Haram.

The AU has struggled to rally contributors to foot the bill for the MNJTF’s $700 million budget, however. Donors, led by Nigeria and France, pledged $250 million in February, just over a third of what was needed, but dispersal has been slow. The United States has also aided with intelligence and training.

A senior MNJTF officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak, told Reuters the money received so far was so little that it only had covered the cost of 11 vehicles and some radio equipment, with the individual armies bearing the rest of the costs.

“There are all these declarations of intentions, but, in concrete terms, nothing has been done yet,” he said.

A spokesman for the MNJTF did not respond to a request for comment.

“HURTING”

A Boko Haram attack last month on Bosso, in southeastern Niger, which killed 32 soldiers and a number of civilians, was the kind of incident the MNJTF was created for.

But rather than the multinational force kicking into action as it is supposed to, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou had to fly to N’Djamena to lobby neighbour Chad for help.

Having played a lead role along with France in a 2013 intervention in Mali to drive back jihadist groups there, Chad’s President Idriss Deby has become indispensable in the fight against West African Islamists.

But with low oil prices now causing Deby economic headaches at home and little direct financial support coming from his allies, analysts say he has grown resentful.

Two weeks after President Issoufou’s visit, Reuters visited a half-finished hotel complex in the southern Niger city of Diffa that had been fully booked out by the Chadian army. The Chadians were nowhere to be seen. Dozens of bungalows sat empty.

It would take more than a month for them to arrive.

Excluding its oil sector, after 7 percent growth in 2014, Chad’s economy contracted by 1.5 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Oil output rose to record levels, but low prices meant revenues dipped.

“This is costing (Deby) a lot of money. There’s a big budget crisis … He’s definitely hurting,” said Nathaniel Powell, a researcher with the Swiss-based Fondation Pierre du Bois.

A Chadian government official did not respond to a request for comment.

Niger’s tiny army – 15,000 troops to cover 1.2 million square kilometres (463,300 square miles) of territory – is overstretched by Boko Haram, but also by the overflow of unrelated Islamist violence from Mali to its west.

Cameroon has meanwhile deployed thousands of troops, including special forces, to its north to secure its own territory against a suicide bombing campaign.

And while Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has shown more willingness than his predecessor to take on the insurgents, decades of graft have hollowed out his military and it now faces resurgent militancy in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

The senior MNJTF officer said the regional neighbours would continue to improve the force. In the meantime, they had no other choice than to act.

“If we wait, Boko Haram isn’t going to wait for us, are they?” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Dakar and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Tim Cocks, Janet McBride)

Nigeria – MSF says refugees from Boko Haram fighting are starving

BBC

A screengrab taken on 13 July 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C).AFP Boko Haram frequently attacks villages, forcing people to flee their homes

Nearly 200 refugees fleeing Boko Haram militants have starved to death over the past month in Bama, Nigeria, the medical charity MSF says.

A “catastrophic humanitarian emergency” is unfolding at a camp it visited where 24,000 people have taken refuge.

Many inhabitants are traumatised and one in five children is suffering from acute malnutrition, MSF says.

The Islamist group’s seven-year rebellion has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Nigeria’s military has carried out a large-scale offensive against them but Boko Haram still attacks villages in the north-east, destroying homes and burning down wells.

Displaced people in Bama say new graves are appearing on a daily basis, according to a statement from MSF.

It quoted inhabitants as saying about 30 people died every day due to hunger or illness.

Although the area has been unsafe to travel through, MSF says one of its teams reached Bama on Tuesday.

It went in with a military convoy from the city of Maiduguri in Borno state.

“This is the first time MSF has been able to access Bama, but we already know the needs of the people there are beyond critical,” said Ghada Hatim, MSF head of mission in Nigeria.

“We are treating malnourished children in medical facilities in Maiduguri and see the trauma on the faces of our patients who have witnessed and survived many horrors,” he said.

Map of Nigeria, showing Bama in the northeast, relative to capital Abuja and big city Lagos

Cameroon forcing refugees who fled Boko Haram back to Nigeria

IRIN

Nigerians who fled Boko Haram forced home

By Sylvestre Tetchiada

  
Photo: UNHCR

Since July, Cameroonian authorities have sent thousands of Nigerians who lack legal refugee status back across the border.

YAOUNDE, 21 August 2015 (IRIN) – In a move some say violates international law and that Nigeria’s government called “inhumane,” Cameroon has forcibly sent home as many as 15,000 Nigerians who entered its territory fleeing attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

The Nigerians, who had not formerly applied for asylum in Cameroon, had been living within host communities or had taken up temporary shelter in fields along the border region, in the hope of returning when the violence subsided.
But days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and in July, security forces began deporting them, ostensibly over fears that they could have ties to Boko Haram, which has been responsible for a recent string of suicide bombings and other deadly attacks in Cameroon’s Far North Region.
“At least five [Boko Haram] suicide attacks have been recorded in the region since 12 July,” Hans Heungoup, an analyst with International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN. “And the security situation remains precarious. It is the latter which made the government decide to send home Nigerians, who were themselves fleeing Boko Haram.”
Cameroonian government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the decision was for the good of the country.
“We are protecting ourselves,” he told IRIN. “We are preventing penetration into our territory of anyone who does not inspire confidence in us. If, within our territory, we realise that there are accomplices, disguised as Boko Haram, our responsibility is to send them back to their own country.”
Is it right?
But local and international rights groups said the deportation of Nigerians who had fled their own country due to violence was neither legal nor compassionate. 
“Where is traditional African solidarity?” asked Georges Mandjeck, a member of the Cameroon Organisation for the Promotion of Rights, an NGO based in Yaoundé. “Refugees’ right to protection is being trampled (on).”
“Everyone should be able to enjoy refugee protection status,” Mandjeck told IRIN. “It seems that the government, in its rage to end terrorism, put them – asylum seekers awaiting permits to enter and persons in transit – in the same boat [as terrorists].”
Odile Yetna from Tribes Without Borders, another Yaoundé-based rights group, said: “It’s hard, but it would have been wiser to call for help to resettle newcomers.”
“These refugees are people who have crossed an international border. Their return is a huge risk for them,” Yetna said, adding that she was afraid of them falling into the hands of Boko Haram and being persecuted.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said Cameroon needed to respect the rights of those seeking refuge.
“We share their [Cameroonian authorities] commitment to ensure the safety and protection of Nigerians in need, while ensuring at the same time, the safety of their own citizens and the border areas,” Khassim Diagne, the head of UNHCR in Cameroon, told IRIN.
Diagne said UNHCR had been encouraging Nigerian refugees who crossed into Cameroon to settle further inland, and more importantly, to register in camps where they could receive assistance and protection. They have also been advocating on behalf of those who can’t or won’t go to the camps.
“We remind the government that there are international principles and norms that must be respected, even in the face of serious security problems,” he said. “UNHCR will continue to monitor the situation of refugees and returnees, while stressing that the protection and humanitarian assistance for returnees is becoming increasingly difficult because of difficulties of access and security.”
Anger in Nigeria
Cameroon’s decision to forcibly return the Nigerian refugees could damage already fragile ties between the two countries.
“Expulsions of undocumented Nigerian migrants in Cameroon could have an impact, in the short term, on the relations between the two countries, over priority differences in the fight against Boko Haram and the enforcement of border regulations,” ICG’s Heungoup said.
In the longer term, the deportations could also negatively affect economic relations and trade flows between the two countries. 
Nigerian authorities claimed they were never warned that their citizens would be sent back and deplored the way in which it was done.
“Our compatriots were expelled because of the intensification of Boko Haram activities in Nigeria,” said Sa’ad Bello, head of the National Agency for Disaster Management (NEMA) in Nigeria. “We were never informed of the transfer of refugees and now we see that many have been abused, transported in trucks like animals and then dumped at home in inhumane conditions.”
Christopher Nyaneh, a Nigerian entrepreneur living in Yaoundé, told IRIN: “Since Boko Haram began killing, they [Cameroon authorities] now treat our brothers, who have chosen to take refuge in Cameroon, like terrorists. This is putting even more of our brothers on the road to exile and wandering.” 

 

Nigeria – returning refugees face hunger

Reuters

After surviving Boko Haram, returnees face hunger in Nigerian towns

Women travel in the back of a truck in the town of Mararaba, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state May 10, 2015.
REUTERS/AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE

Since Nigeria’s army began clearing large areas of the country’s northeast from Boko Haram, some of the 1.5 million internally displaced people have started returning home. But thousands could now face severe food shortages as reconstruction lags behind.

Along the main roads heading north from Adamawa’s state capital Yola, some trade has resumed in the towns but ghostly pockets and haunting reminders of the insurgent takeover are evident. Some three months after the fighting ended, the smell of rotting corpses still clings to the air by the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren near Mararaba.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram grabbed swathes of Nigeria’s northeast last year, killing thousands in an unprecedented land grab. It took over most of Borno state, the birthplace of the group, and parts of Adamawa and Yobe while increasing incursions on neighbouring countries.

The army began pushing back when Boko Haram was about 100 km (60 miles) from Adamawa’s state capital. In the last few months, many people have returned to Adamawa but health clinics, banks and schools are still lacking, especially in the northernmost areas, and vast stretches of farmland between towns stand barren.

In the town of Michika, which saw some of the fiercest fighting, residents are too afraid and lack the equipment and manpower to farm, and at least for the moment they will not be able to live off the land.

Meanwhile there is no sign of government aid.

“Most people coming back are in hardship because there’s no food. People are sick but there are no hospitals … no vegetables, no lemons, no bananas … We’re not ready to go back to farming. All our machinery was burned or taken,” a Christian community leader, Sini T-Kwagga, told Reuters.

People will drive to Mubi, a city about an hour’s drive south, to get goods but thi‎s vital route will be blocked once the rainy season comes into full swing next month.

Many bridges were blown up by Boko Haram, including the important link to Mubi, to try to stop the offensive by Nigerian troops. The river is already starting to fill up with early rains and men have to push cars through the muddy waters while women sell mangoes to passers-by.

Madagali, the northernmost major town in the state and the last to be liberated in Adamawa in February, also depends on this route.

Mubi itself was a Boko Haram stronghold at one point. Life is bustling again but its banks are still closed and in ruin.

LANDMINE DANGER

Rusting tanks with Arabic writing, burnt cars and military equipment litter the main roads in northern Adamawa. Boko Haram writings cover the beige outdoor walls of buildings, roofs are collapsed and gutted churches stand charred.

Some landmines are still dotted around Michika and the main farming areas are far away from military checkpoints.

“‎We have to stay, we have nowhere to live, no money for rent. We are afraid to farm … about a week ago a bomb exploded when people went to clear the land. They were hurt,” Rebecca Ishaya said.

She came back two weeks ago with her children but sent a few away again because of the lack of schools.

Boko Haram militants liberally employed landmines, often handmade in their bomb factories, to protect their strongholds. The military said this strategy was slowing their offensive into the Sambisa forest reserve, which is the militants’ last bastion and where hundreds of abducted women and children have been found.

(Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak; Editing by Frances Kerry)

UN warns agans forcing igerian refugees to return to the north-east

UN News Service

Amid rising violence, UN agency advises against forced returns to north-east Nigeria

After fighting began between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram, a family from Borno state fled to Niger. Photo: UNHCR/C. Arnaud

29 October 2013 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling on States to keep their borders open for Nigerians fleeing the escalating violence in their country and who may be in need of international protection.

The Geneva-based agency is also advising States against forced returns of people to the region, spokesperson Dan McNorton told reporters.

“Our recommendations are contained in a newly issued Return Advisory, which seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the worsening security situation in north-eastern Nigeria,” he stated.

Conflict between the Nigerian army and insurgents in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe has led to deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in the region, which has been under a state of emergency since May.

According to UNHCR, violence is estimated to have displaced an estimated 5,000 people within the region, but as humanitarian access has been hampered by the attacks, the agency believes the actual number of people affected could be significantly higher.

Some 10,000 Nigerians have also crossed into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger in recent months. Most – around 8,100 – have sought refuge in Cameroon, according to local authorities who say that Nigerians are continuing to arrive. The number of Nigerian refugees in Niger is 2,700, and in Chad 150.

Mr. McNorton said UNHCR has been “alarmed” by reports of the attempted forced return of 111 people from Cameroon to Nigeria on 5 October, during which 15 people were killed and another seven wounded. The remaining 89 individuals immediately fled back to Cameroon and were detained.

“UNHCR is working with the Government of Cameroon to assess whether there are people in the group in need of international protection,” said Mr. McNorton.

He noted that in light of the security situation in north-eastern Nigeria, people fleeing are likely to meet the criteria for refugee status as outlined in international treaties.

UNHCR said its Return Advisory will remain in effect until the security and human rights situation in north-eastern Nigeria has improved sufficiently to permit a safe and dignified return.  UN