About 218,000 Nigerian refugees are living in three neighbouring countries – Cameroon, Chad and the Niger Republic – the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said.
The UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Antonio Canhandula, disclosed this on Wednesday, in Abuja, during a consultative meeting on the global compact of refugees in Nigeria.
He also said about 22,408 Nigerian refugees had returned to their various regions as of January to October 2019.
The official said the refugees are those displaced by violence in states in the North-east, ”not those from in the North-west region which the agency does not have adequate figures on”.
Newsmen in September had reported that the UNHCR announced that the number of refugees in the North-west seeking safety in the neighbouring Niger Republic alone doubled to over 40,000 persons over the last ten months.
The humanitarian group also said it was working with authorities in Niger Republic to provide basic assistance and register the new arrivals.
”Violence by armed groups in North-western Nigeria led to a new humanitarian emergency in Niger’s border regions with Nigeria, many of them women and children moving to more than 50 villages in Guidan Roumji, Guidan Sori and Tibiri of the Niger Republic.
”The Nigerian population that has been displaced out of Nigeria over the years. There are Nigerian refugees in Cameroon which are 94,000, Chad, 12,000 refugees while Niger, it is 112,000 refugees.”
The UN envoy also said there was a problem of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon ”being forced to unsafe areas”.
”The issue of Cameroon moving Nigerian refugees to unsafe areas in Cameroon is old history,” he said. ”The situation was more in 2017, less in 2018 and in 2019, we cannot say there have been forceful (ejection) of any Nigerian refugees so the situation has tremendously improved,” he said.
He said the UNHCR has a tripartite agreement with the governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Niger Republic ”which lays out the conditions under which repatriation should take place meaning a condition of voluntariness and safety and similar other conditions.
”The tripartite agreement was signed in March 2017 for principled return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon. Expected to be operationalised in 2019. The Agreement with Niger may be initiated in 2019.”
Mr Canhandula also said the UNHRC has registered about 46,000 refugees from the Anglophone Cameroonian region that are living in Benue, Taraba, Cross Rivers, and Akwa Ibom states.
He added that 37,117 refugees were ‘biometrically’ verified in the four states, ”with Cross River hosting the highest number of 34,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria”.
”Currently, we have registered about 46,000 Anglophone Cameroon refugees living in Nigeria together with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).
”The registers do not mean the total number of refugees in Nigeria but those we have registered. We have more that have not yet been registered.
”The majority are in Cross River with 34,000 refugees, while we have about 5,600 in Taraba; and 6,400 in Benue states.”
He also said there are about 2,355 refugees in Lagos from nine different African countries while 1,260 of the said refugees are asylum seekers.
He said, ”635 refugees are from DR Congo; 449 are from Central African Republic (CAR); Cameroon 280, Syria 249; Turkey 174; Mali 144; Cote D’Ivoire 128 Chad 88; Sudan 47 and others 47.”
Meanwhile, Dahiru Bagiwa, the head of Refugees Division for the NCFRMI said the agency, in collaboration with other NGOs, has provided training packs for the returnees.
He added that the NCFRMI also provided transit camps for the returnees who had lost contact with loved ones.