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Cameroon Accused of forcibly deporting Nigerian refugees in danger

Cameroon illegally deported 100,000 Nigerian refugees seen here

WEST AFRICA – Several international relief and rights organizations have accused the West Africa nation of Cameroon on Wednesday of forcibly returning some 100,000 Nigerian refugees back to hostile territories in violation of international treaties, hence, putting the vulnerable population in danger from Boko Haram Islamists.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Since early 2015, the Cameroonian authorities have summarily deported at least 100,000 Nigerians living in remote border areas back to war, displacement and destitution in Nigeria’s Borno state.”

Human Rights Watch said Nigerian refugees who had sought asylum within the border areas because of the Islamist violence had been abused, attacked and even sexually exploited by soldiers.

The US-based human rights group maintained in a release that “In carrying out these deportations, Cameroonian soldiers have frequently used extreme physical violence.”

“The Cameroonian military’s aim seems to be to clear Nigerians out of the country and dissuade other would-be asylum seekers from seeking Cameroon’s protection,” it added.

According to Human Rights Watch, the actions of the Cameroonian authorities is a “flagrant breach of the principle of non-refoulment”, which stops asylum seekers and refugees from being forced back to territories where they could face persecution.

In 2016, several Nigerian refugees ‘ were rounded up’ by security forces in Cameroon.

In the wake of that and many other incidents, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) urged all governments to stopping returning people or anyone to northeast Nigeria “until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably”.

Sources say, between April and May this year, an estimated 13,000 Nigerian asylum seekers, displaced people and refugees were returned from the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon’s Far North region to the border township of Banki.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, remarked last year that he was “extremely worried” by the returns of Nigerian refugees and called them “unsustainable”.

Nigerians had been “rounded up” into trucks and forcibly returned to camps that were “dangerously unprepared to receive them”, he added.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said unlawful deportations continues but that Nigeria is also complicit as it continues to send military vehicles to help bring back its citizens from Cameroon.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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