Journalism of Courage

Cameroon Forcibly Returns 887 vulnerable Nigerian Refugees 

Per Second News—Cameroun authorities have forcibly deported vulnerable Nigerian refugees back to Banki town in northeast, Nigeria, in violation of Cameroun’s international obligations. Those deported include wounded men, women and unaccompanied children.

Refugee deportations violate the international law principle of non refoulement, which forbids governments from returning people to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

Like other camps, Banki remains vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks and has been targeted by suicide bombers.

The camp lies inside the old walls of the destroyed city.

Water and shelter are scarce and children are not in school.

Boko Haram fighters are said to be responsible for the gunfire heard at night.

Cameroon and Nigeria have been battling over refugees for the past year, said Yan St-Pierre, of the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin.


“In the last month we’ve had a precipitous return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon that wasn’t necessarily expected,” said UNHCR Representative to Nigeria Jose Antonio Canhandula.

In March, the UN said that more than 2,600 Nigerians of an estimated 85,000 who fled into northern Cameroon to escape Boko Haram jihadists had been forced to go home

“They apparently were informed that the situation was good in Nigeria and they could return.

“We immediately started a campaign to inform them of the real situation. This is not the time to return, because when you return you end up in a camp with much less services.”

The UN refugee agency on Thursday said 887 Nigerians were “rounded up” into six trucks and forcibly returned by Cameroon to camps “dangerously unprepared to receive them”.



In a way, Cameroon is calling Nigeria’s bluff, St-Pierre said.

Since December 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed Boko Haram is “technically defeated” and the government has insisted the group is on the back foot despite attacks.

In the first six months of 2017, Boko Haram has attacked soldiers, staged assaults on military bases, killed scores in suicide bombings and earlier in June launched a major assault on Maiduguri, the capital of northeast Borno state.

“It’s a political way of taking them to the word, saying, ‘Well, if you’ve secured the area, then take your population back’,” said St-Pierre.


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