Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR has urged the government of Cameroon to stop forceful repatriation of Nigerian refugees from the far north region. He made the revelation July 19 in a press conference at the Country office of the UNHCR.
“We are trying to make sure that the principle of voluntariness, security, dignity and safety must be respected. I was in Nigeria two weeks ago and I can tell you that the conditions, especially in Borno state are not favourable for refugees to return” he said. He noted that the UNHCR is not ready to facilitate returns but is currently looking at possibilities to work with Cameroon and Nigeria to help the refugees return in a near future. “So we are praying Cameroon to continue its hospitality towards the refugees little longer.”
Volker Türk decried the fact that several thousands of refugees have returned to Nigeria in the past two months. “There are spontaneous returns in groups; voluntary returns where refugees organise their return by themselves. They need to be sensitised to know it is not yet safe for them to go back home.” We are more worried about the case of Kolofata (where thousands were chased out of Cameroon) because these are people fleeing violence. They are not fighters. They are looking for survival.”
During his two-day working visit, he visited the Minawao camp in the Far North region and met with the minister of external relations, minister of territorial administration and decentralisation as well as the Secretary General at the presidency. “We had cordial discussions concerning solutions to problems faced by Nigerian and CAR refugees in Cameroon. We are also looking at means and ways through which the World Bank can assist Cameroon so that the country can transform the responsibilities towards refugees into opportunities.” he said.