The Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has cautioned against the forceful return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon.
The UN Refugee Agency gave the caution in a statement on Thursday following the return of 887 Nigerian refugees, on Tuesday.
“The refugees were rounded up at 19:30 (7:30 p.m) local time and forcibly removed to Banki in Nigeria in desperate conditions.”
The agency said that the refugees were repatriated in six trucks provided by the Nigerian military and Cameroonian police from the Kolofata border site adding that most of them were children.
It added that it was alarmed over the forced returns of refugees from Cameroon into northeast Nigeria and recalled that similar incidents had occurred earlier in the year.
It further stated that repeated warnings had been made concerning the situation in which conditions did not yet exist to make returns safe and sustainable.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi said: “The involuntary return of refugees must be avoided under any circumstances.
“In addition, returns to Nigeria put a strain on the few existing services and are not sustainable at this time.
“A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs.”
The high commissioner for refugees said the agency remained concerned for the children.
“We also understand that several dozen refugees, fearing that they would be returned against their will, escaped and went into hiding.”
The UNHCR reiterated that insecurity in the northeast prevented refugees from returning to their places of origin with many of them ending up in Banki where more than 45,000 internally displaced persons were barely accommodated.
It also repeated its appeal to the authorities in Cameroon to allow newly arrived Nigerian refugees to reach Minawao camp, where about 58,000 refugees are currently being hosted, with another 33,000 living in nearby villages.
The agency further renewed its call on Cameroon and Nigeria to refrain from further forced returns.
It also urged both parties to take urgent steps to convene a meeting of the Tripartite Commission, established under a recent agreement with UNHCR to ensure a facilitated voluntary return process in line with international standards.
The UN agency also emphasised the importance of all states to ensure international protection for all those fleeing insecurity and persecution in the northeast. (NAN)