Nigerian refugees returning to &#8220dangerously unprepared&#8221 situation, UN agency chief warns

21 June 2017 &#150 Large numbers of Nigerian refugees hosted in Cameroon are returning to northeast Nigeria, into a situation the United Nations refugee chief calls &#8220dangerously unprepared to receive them.&#8221

&#8220It is my firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time,&#8221 said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in a press statement today.

Three weeks ago the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned about the situation in the Nigerian border town of Banki, where thousands were returning.

&#8220Shelter was lacking, there was severe overcrowding, water supplies and sanitation facilities were wholly inadequate, humanitarian aid was in short supply, and with the rainy season approaching, there was a risk of disease. Even before the returns, Banki was hosting some 45,000 internally displaced people,&#8221 Mr. Grandi stressed.

&#8220Now,&#8221 he continued &#8220a further 889 Nigerian refugees, most of them children, have arrived. Having travelled from Minawao camp in Cameroon they reached Banki on 17th June.&#8221

The High Commission explained that UNHCR has already stepped up information efforts in Minawao camp to ensure that refugees are given accurate information on the conditions in Banki before they make the choice to return.

&#8220In Banki a strengthened inter-agency effort to address the existing situation must be a priority,&#8221 he continued.&#8221 We are working with the authorities and humanitarian actors to ensure that returnees are quickly screened, and receive food, shelter and other basic household support.&#8221

Mr. Grandi pointed out, &#8220The new arrivals &#8211 and we hear reports of more refugees seeking to return &#8211 put a strain on the few existing services. A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs.&#8221

He concluded by stressing that the Tripartite Commission, established with UNHCR and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, needs to hold its first meeting as soon as possible to outline the minimum conditions needed for returns and discuss how to address these spontaneous movements.

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