UNHCR concerned over refugees' return to violence-hit Nigeria

 The UN today expressed concern over the return of hundreds of refugees to Nigeria from Niger, saying authorities in the two countries should stop the repatriation until there are proper safeguards against the brutal violence by radical group Boko Haram.

PTI| Updated: Jan 16, 2015, 19:35 PM IST

Geneva: The UN today expressed concern over the return of hundreds of refugees to Nigeria from Niger, saying authorities in the two countries should stop the repatriation until there are proper safeguards against the brutal violence by radical group Boko Haram.

Nine buses with refugees were sent back to Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno state, and another 11 buses are currently parked in Gagamari in Niger's Diffa region, UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told reporters.

"UNHCR is concerned about the nature of these returns and has asked authorities to stop this operation until there are proper safeguards and a legal framework between Nigeria, Niger and UNHCR," said Spindler.

Refugees have been fleeing the brutal violence by extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram in poverty-stricken north-eastern Nigeria.
The militant group aims to establish an Islamic caliphate in religiously-mixed Nigeria.

On January 3, the Islamist group attacked the town of Baga and razed it and at least 16 surrounding settlements. The attack is feared to be the worst massacre since Boko Haram's deadly insurgency began in 2009.

In another most brutal attack, a 10-year old girl was used to detonate a bomb in Maiduguri.

A woman, who ran away from Baga with her five children and husband and is currently in Niger, said she saw insurgents run over women with their cars, shoot and use knives to cut throats.
She estimates hundreds were being killed in Baga.

Refugees from Baga and the surrounding areas are choosing to flee over the lake into Chad, "indicating that the overland route into Niger is blocked by insurgents," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Two thousand refugees who were stranded on islands of Koulfoua and Kangalam, have been shifted to the newly moved refugee site of Dar Es Salam, near Bagasola, located 70 kms from the border of Nigeria.

Since May 2013, when a state of emergency was declared in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in north-eastern Nigeria, an estimated 1,53,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries - 37,000 in Cameroon, 16,000 in Chad, and more than 1,00,000 (both Nigerian refugees and Niger nationals in the north east) in Niger.

Chad alone has 104 unaccompanied children.

In 2015 alone, the violence has let to an exodus of 19,000 people.