The essence of this relocation exercise by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Nigerian Government is to ensure that the Cameroonian refugees live in safety, and in respect of the international humanitarian norm that refugees should stay at least 50 kilometres from the borders.
On May 22, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, moved some 331 Cameroonian refugees from Abande to Anyake, Kwande Local Government Area (LGA) settlement, in a move intended to help provide care and protection to people forced to abandon their homes mostly in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
To date, UNHCR, together with the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), has registered some 21,291 refugees in Nigeria; children and women constitute 77 percent of the refugee population.
Living in 40 different locations across four states - Cross River, Benue, Akwa Ibom, and Taraba - the refugees have been arriving in Nigeria since October 2017.
Addressing the community leaders and members of the host community gathered to witness and welcome the arrival of the refugees in Anyake, Boubacar Bamba, the Assistant Representative for Operations, stated that UNHCR is actively engaged with partners and the government authorities to find creative ways to address the current refugee situation more sustainably. "Refugees who can learn, contribute, and provide for their families in exile are better placed to rebuild their lives anywhere - including at home once it's safe to return," he explained.
For his part, Emmanuel Shior, the Executive Secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, commended UNHCR for its active role and commitment to responding with much-needed assistance for the Cameroonian refugees. According to Mr Shior, two of its staff who were stationed in Abande will be redeployed to Anyake, where they will continue to provide support as the refugees settle into their new environment.
Over the past few months, UNHCR, state authorities, Norwegian Church Aid, and the residents of the host community worked tirelessly to construct a transit site, two multipurpose housing facilities, 32 temporary shelters, and 24 latrines in preparation for the move to Anyake, located 66 kilometres from Abande, Benue state. Over the next few months, there will be more voluntary relocations to Anyake settlement , which can host some 3,000 to 4,000 Cameroonian refugees.
"Do not take advantage of vulnerable girls and women," cautioned Chief Zaki of Anyake. Stressing the need for peaceful coexistence between the refugees and the host community, the chief stated that he would remain available to work with both the host community and the refugees to prevent and mediate cases of conflict.
UNHCR appreciates the contributions of its partners, the Nigerian government, and members of the host community to help Cameroonian refugees. UNHCR remains committed to working with the Nigerian government to step up and strengthen structures that will promote respect for human rights to safeguard the rights and well-being of internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugee returnees, refugees, and asylum seekers.