By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) have so far registered 21,291 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.
This is the headcount of Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria since October 2017 when the francophone and anglophone crisis began in the neighbouring Central African country.
The headcount showed that children and women constitute about 77 per cent of the refugee population.
The UNHCR, in a press statement on Thursday, said the refugees were living in 40 different locations across four states of Nigeria including Cross River, Benue, Akwa Ibom and Taraba, noting that the refugees have been arriving in Nigeria since October 2017.
The UN Refugee Agency, which stated that some of the refugees had to be relocated to a new site in Nigeria, said: “The essence of this relocation exercise by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Nigerian Government is to ensure that the Cameroonian refugees live in safety, and in respect of the international humanitarian norm that refugees should stay at least 50 kilometres from the borders.”
It said: “On May 22, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, moved some 331 Cameroonian refugees from Abande to Anyake, Kwande Local Government Area (LGA) settlement, in a move intended to help provide care and protection to people forced to abandon their homes mostly in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
“To date, UNHCR, together with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), has registered some 21,291 refugees in Nigeria; children and women constituting 77 per cent of the refugee population.
“Living in 40 different locations across four states – Cross River, Benue, Akwa Ibom, and Taraba – the refugees have been arriving in Nigeria since October 2017.”
The press statement read that while addressing the community leaders and members of the host community who were gathered to witness and welcome the arrival of the refugees in Anyake, Boubacar Bamba, the Assistant Representative for Operations stated that UNHCR is actively engaged with partners and the government authorities to find creative ways to address the current refugee situation more sustainably.
He explained that: “Refugees who can learn, contribute, and provide for their families in exile are better placed to rebuild their lives anywhere – including at home once it’s safe to return.”
The statement claimed that Emmanuel Shior, the Executive Secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, commended UNHCR for its active role and commitment to responding with the much-needed assistance for the Cameroonian refugees.
He promised that two members of staff who were stationed in Abande will be redeployed to Anyake, where they will continue to provide support as the refugees settle into their new environment.
Over the past few months, UNHCR, state authorities, Norwegian Church Aid, and the residents of the host community worked tirelessly to construct a transit site, two multipurpose housing facilities, 32 temporary shelters, and 24 latrines in preparation for the move to Anyake, located 66 kilometres from Abande, Benue State.
Over the next few months, there will be more voluntary relocations to Anyake settlement, which can host some 3,000 to 4,000 Cameroonian refugees.