Cameroon expels Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks
Cameroonian security forces have forcefully returned about 50,000 Nigerians fleeing Islamic Jihadi sect, Boko Haram’s attack at Rann, a village north of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which killed at least 10 people and left dozens wounded on Monday night, 14 January.
In a statement, expressing its alarm at the development, the United Nations said, on Friday 18 January, that the “action was totally unexpected and puts lives of thousands of refugees at risk,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said.
The high commissioner appealed to Cameroon to “continue its open door and hospitable policy,” and to “halt immediately any more returns” and meet its obligations under international law.
United Nations Human Rights Commission,UNHCR, report says Cameroon already has over 370,000 refugees with over 100,000 of them from Nigeria fleeing the jihadists insurgency.
Over 9,000 Nigerian reportedly fled the Rann attack to Cameroon. The Nigerian army has however said it has engaged the Islamists and taken control of the town. Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Public Relations Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole said,“the terrorists, wanting to take advantage of the cover of darkness to attack the town, were met with a prompt response of the vigilant troops who fiercely engaged them in combat, killing several and recovering weapons.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Doctors Without Boarders, Programme Manager for Nigeria, Hugues Robert said refugees from the attack have walked for days after the attacks from Rann to Bodo in Cameroon. “Our team in Bodo estimates that some 8,000 people arrived Thursday and we expect several thousands more may come Friday,” Robert said.
“We are preparing to assist 15,000 people with food, water and medical care over the coming days. Many people were in a state of shock and were clearly distressed by what they had witnessed. Now they have lost all that they have and need absolutely everything,” Robert explained.
The pressure from Cameroonian security forcing the refugees to undertake another number of days trek back to Nigeria and insecurity, “is truly devastating for the people in Rann”, says Robert, “They suffer endless violence. And now they have to get back on their feet once more. How many more times is this possible? The people of Borno continue to pay the price for this merciless conflict. All the warring parties must respect the safety of civilians, Robert stressed.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos