Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Recent clashes between the Nigerian Army and insurgent groups in the north-east of the country have led over 4,000 people to seek refuge in Cameroon since mid-January, while an estimated 1,500 people have fled to Niger.
A UNHCR team in Cameroon's Far North Region has spoken with refugees from the area around Banki, a town just across the border in Nigeria's Borno State. The refugees said their villages were bombed, that several people had been killed, and that at least two villages were burned to the ground.
Nigeria's northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have been under states of emergency since May 2013. The continuing violence has displaced thousands of people. Of those who have fled to Cameroon, most are in the Logone-et-Chari area of Far North Region. With this new influx, there are now 12,428 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, according to local Cameroonian authorities. Of that number 2,183 have so far been moved to a UNHCR camp at Minawao, 130 kilometres further inland. Together with partner agencies we are providing refugees with shelter, health, sanitation, education, food, and other help.
In Niger, the new refugee arrivals have been in the Diffa region of south-east Niger. Refugees say they fled a January 16 mosque attack in the village of Gashagar just across the border. Seven people were reportedly killed during the attack, and seven cars were burned as well as 60 shops. The refugees are being hosted by local communities and most are women and children. UNHCR is sending relief aid.
A government census released last November showed that some 37,000 people - including 8,000 Nigerians and 30,000 Niger nationals who were living in Nigeria - have been displaced into the Diffa region since May 2013. In early December, the Niger government issued a decree granting temporary refugee status to Nigerians who fled the three states under states of emergency in Nigeria.
We continue to urge states in the region to keep their borders open for Nigerians who are fleeing their country and may need international protection. We are also advising against any forced returns. Our recommendations are contained in a Return Advisory issued last October, which seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the insecure situation in north-eastern Nigeria.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Dakar: Helene Caux, Senior Public Information Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: + 221 77 333 1291 In Cameroon, Ndeye Ndour, Representative, email@example.com, tel: +237 79516767 In Nigeria: Angele Dikongue-Atangana, Representative, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +234 8181530428 In Niger, Karl Steinacker, Representative, email@example.com, tel: +227 92193146 In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83