The UN refugee agency has repeated its call to Cameroon to stop forcing Nigerian refugees to return to unsafe Borno State in neighbouring Nigeria.
Since the beginning of this year Cameroon has deported 385 Nigerians, the majority of them this month, says the UNHCR according to international broadcaster VOA.
They return to areas where Boko Haram insurgents, whom they fled, are still active and where there is famine, described by the UN as the “greatest crisis on the continent”.
So far Cameroon has received more than 87,000 Nigerian refugees, according to the UNHCR. Spokesman for West Africa Romain Desclous, however, expressed his concern about an “unsettling pattern of forced returns”. One of the groups who were deported in April had only arrived two days earlier, he said.
While the refugee agency acknowledges the generosity of Cameroon and recognises its security concerns, Desclous said, it has asked the country to honour its obligations under international and regional refugee-protection instruments, as well as its domestic law.
Last year World Watch Monitor reported about the involuntary return of refugees to Nigeria’s unsafe areas.
Meanwhile Boko Haram is also said to be causing “untold misery” within Cameroon’s own borders, in the northern part of the country.
Although Boko Haram was already active in Cameroon’s Far North in 2013, the violence worsened after President Paul Biya vowed in May 2014 to “declare war” on the group. In response, the jihadists launched an offensive against army positions and several other locations, causing great damage to local populations, especially the churches.
According to the UNHCR, the Boko Haram insurgency has caused more than 170,000 people in the Far North Region to flee their homes. A great number of the displaced are Christians.
Attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in northern Cameroon have continued in 2018.
In February the Islamist group attacked two villages, close to the north-eastern border with Nigeria, leaving one person dead and many homes destroyed by fire.