According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR’s local representation, the Far-North region currently has about 90,000 Nigerian refugees, of whom 58,800 are in the Minawao camp, and about 33 000 living in neighboring villages.
The UN say there is only one transit center for the Nigerian refugees, that of Gourounguel located about 5 km from the Minawao camp and 60 km from the border. The transit center of Gourounguel is intended to receive new refugees who are allowed to stay there for a maximum of 48 hours, for screening and pre-registration before transfer to the Minawao camp.
From January to June, approximately 4,317 refugees were returned to the border by the Cameroonian authorities. A total of 887 were shipped from Kolofata with the supporting and backing of the Cameroonian and Nigerian security forces.
Between April and June 2017, some 13,091 Nigerian refugees spontaneously left the Minawao for a return to their home areas, mainly to Banki and Pulka. The UN has insisted that the spontaneous returns were decided and organized by the refugees themselves without consultation and without the support of UNHCR and its partners with some of the convoys receiving an escort from the Cameroonian security forces.
UNHCR said it had expressed concern about the return to areas where protection and assistance mechanisms were not yet in a position to ensure a safe return and dignity. It should be noted that UNHCR sensitizes refugees through information campaigns to inform them about the conditions in their areas of origin as well as the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement signed on 2 March 2017 in Yaoundé, between UNHCR and the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria.
With regard to forced returns, UNHCR continues to advocate with the Cameroonian authorities to ensure that international standards are respected and that access to asylum is guaranteed for all persons seeking international protection.
By Chi Prudence Asong
Cameroon Intelligence Report