The United Nations said Friday it was “extremely alarmed” by the forced return by Cameroon of thousands of refugees to northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram Islamists pose a continuing threat to civilians.
“This action was totally unexpected and puts lives of thousands of refugees at risk,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement.
Cameroon forced “several thousand” refugees back to Nigeria this week, including 267 on Wednesday, the UN refugee agency said.
“I am appealing to Cameroon to continue its open door and hospitable policy,” Grandi said, while calling on the government to “halt immediately any more returns” and meet its obligations under international law.
Cameroon is currently hosting 370,000 refugees, 100,000 of whom are Nigerians, according to the UNHCR.
Earlier this month, more than 9,000 people fled to Cameroon after an attack on a military base and aid buildings in the town of Rann in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state.
The attack was blamed on the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram, which has carried out similar raids against troops since July last year.
The upsurge in violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee, including internally displaced people who have returned home after previous attacks.