Switzerland: UN refugee chief warns against return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Wednesday said he is "extremely worried" that large numbers of Nigerian refugees hosted in Cameroon are again returning to northeast Nigeria, into a situation "dangerously unprepared" to receive them.

In a statement issued in Geneva, he said three weeks ago UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, warned about the situation in the Nigerian border town of Banki where thousands were returning. The refugees had fled the atrocities of the Islamist group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

"Shelter was lacking, there was severe overcrowding, water supplies and sanitation facilities were wholly inadequate, humanitarian aid was in short supply, and with the rainy season approaching there was a risk of disease," Mr Grandi noted.

Even before the returns, Banki was hosting some 45,000 internally displaced people.

He said now a further 889 Nigerian refugees, most of them children, have arrived. Having travelled from Minawao camp in Cameroon they reached Banki on 17 June.

"It is my firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time." he stressed. "UNHCR has already stepped up information efforts in Minawao camp to ensure that refugees are given accurate information on the conditions in Banki before they make the choice to return."
Mr Grandi said in Banki a strengthened inter-agency effort to address the existing situation must be a priority. "We are working with the authorities and humanitarian actors to ensure that returnees are quickly screened, and receive food, shelter and other basic household support."

The UNHCR chief said new arrivals, with reports of more refugees seeking to return, put a strain on the few existing services. A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs.

Mr Grandi said the Tripartite Commission, established with UNHCR and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon needs to hold its first meeting as soon as possible to outline the minimum conditions needed for returns and discuss how to address these spontaneous movements.
-0- PANA MA 21June2017

21 june 2017 08:25:39

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