Africa

Over 20,000 Cameroon refugees registered in Nigeria

UNHCR spokeswoman calls for urgent political solution to conflict in Cameroon so that refugees can return to their homes

Muniıra Abdelmenan Awel   | 20.03.2018
Over 20,000 Cameroon refugees registered in Nigeria

Ankara

By Munira Abdelmenan Awel

ANKARA

Over 20,000 Cameroonians have been registered as asylum seekers in Nigeria, where their basic needs are hardly served, UN Refugee Agency said on Tuesday.

According to UNHCR spokeswoman Aikaterini Kitidi, the Cameroonian refugees whose fourth-fifths of the total population is women and children will face serious challenges if they failed to receive international support.

“A recent assessment by humanitarian groups shows 95 percent of the asylum seekers have no more than three days of food. Most families are down to one meal per day,” Kitidi said.

She said the asylum seekers reported that they do not have access to clean water, while essential relief items such as clothing, blankets, and plastic sheeting are also available to fewer than 25 percent of them.

The spokeswoman said only five in every 100 Cameroonians have proper or independent shelter, while the rest have little or no privacy.

"Children commonly exhibit rapid breathing and coughing," she noted.

Many of the refugees are suffering from psychological disturbances to physical disabilities, while three-quarters of children cannot access schools as their parents are struggling to make ends meet, Kitidi said.

She called for an urgent political solution to the situation in Cameroon so that the refugees can “safely and voluntarily” return to their homes.

Earlier this month, Nigerian authorities allocated land to UNHCR which would allow more shelters to be established to ensure the safety, security, and self-reliance of the refugees.

“Our office has worked on a contingency plan of $18 million to help cover their needs. However, so far no funds have been received, leading to immense challenges and gaps in the response,” the UNHCR’s spokeswoman said.

Expressing concerns over reports of refugee arrests in Nigeria, Kitidiurged urged the Nigerian authorities to refrain from the forcible return of individuals, who may have fled persecution in their country of origin.

Cameroonians began fleeing conflict between the government and the Anglophone separatist forces since October 2017 and continue to pour into Nigeria’s Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states.

The country has been marred by protests for over a year, with residents in English-speaking regions saying they have been marginalized for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

The protesters are calling for a return to federalism or independence of English-speaking Cameroon, which the demonstrators refer to as the "Federal Republic of Ambazonia".

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