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Nigerian Refugee Exodus Spreading To Cameroon

  • Lisa Schlein

Nigerians of Cameroonian origin carry straw bales to build houses in a village of Tallamallabrahim, northern Cameroon, May 27, 2013, where they settled after fleeing Nigeria to escape massacres by the Islamic group Boko Haram.

Nigerians of Cameroonian origin carry straw bales to build houses in a village of Tallamallabrahim, northern Cameroon, May 27, 2013, where they settled after fleeing Nigeria to escape massacres by the Islamic group Boko Haram.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reports people are continuing to flee the crisis in northeastern Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states. It said the refugee exodus is now spreading to Cameroon, where more than 3,000 Nigerians have fled.

UNHCR said thousands of Nigerians began crossing into Cameroon one week ago. The new arrivals tell aid workers they fled a confrontation between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said the fighting occurred just 10 kilometers from the Nigerian-Cameroon border. He said most of the refugees are women and children.

"Primarily, the refugees are being looked after by the host communities and … churches are also part of the networks providing help to people as they immediately come across," he said.

"As with all of these crises," Edwards added, "the worry for us is when you have refugees in areas very close to the border, which might be volatile, might be unsafe. We are looking at moving people to other locations. But, in terms of their current accommodations, most people are living in the community.”

The UNHCR said refugees also are continuing to arrive in neighboring Niger, adding to the more than 6,000 refugees that already are there.

Adrian Edwards said most of the new arrivals in Niger are women and children coming from rural villages across the border and from the towns of Maiduguri and Baga.

“On 11 June, gunshots were heard in Malam Ftouri, a village on the Nigeria side, close to the border, prompting the population of the village to flee across the border. They traveled by foot, by motorbike," he said. "They found refuge with host families just across the border. Hundreds of new arrivals have also been reported further north of Diffa, according to local authorities.”

Aid workers on the ground report some displaced people from Nigeria are returning home after a few days in Niger. Others, they said, are shuttling between the two countries depending on the security situation in Nigeria.

Chad, a third possible destination for Nigerian refugees, has officially closed its border. As a consequence, the UNHCR reports no Nigerians have arrived there besides the 155 refugees who came last week.

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