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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has learned with great concern of the forced return by Nigeria of 47 Cameroonians, who were handed over to the Cameroonian authorities on 26 January 2018.

Most of the individuals in question had submitted asylum claims. Their forcible return is in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which constitutes the cornerstone of international refugee law.

The returns were carried out despite UNHCR’s efforts and engagement with the authorities.

UNHCR reminds Nigeria of its obligations under international and Nigerian law, and urges the Nigerian Government to refrain from forcible returns of Cameroonian asylum-seekers back to their country of origin.

We also urge the Government of Cameroon to ensure that the group is treated in accordance with human rights law and standards.

Source: unhcr.org

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Ongoing violence in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon continues.  A refugee crisis threatens. The United Nations (UN) refugee agency reported more than 32 000 Cameroonians crossed into Nigeria as refugees. The Daily Vox team takes a closer look.

Cameroon Refugee Crisis

The United Nations and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have reported that intensified violence has led displacement.  There has been a displacement of more than 437 500 people within Cameroon.  More people fled into Nigeria where they are staying in refugee camps in Cross River State.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) built a refugee settlement in August 2018. By December 2018 it held more than 6 400 refugees.

In a report compiled by MSF, they spoke to refugees in the camp. Lydia Ochin from Akwaya, Cameroon said: “I escaped from my country in October 2017. I have lived with my family, my husband, and my children, in Adagom refugee camp since August 2018. Life in the camp is not easy. I live here with my husband, who is sick with tuberculosis, and my children. Eight people living inside a small tent. Now that my health is getting better, the biggest challenge is food. We do not have money to buy food on our own and all we eat is the rice that is given to us.”

In the area, the MSF Cross River project operates six mobile clinics for the host and refugee community. The organisation dug boreholes and repaired handpumps to provide water for the communities.

Civil society response

In February 2019, faith and civil society organisations like the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Denis Hurley Peace Institute will deliver a letter to the 40th session of the UNHCR. The letter demands UN members states investigate allegations of human rights violations in Ambazonia. At the same when the letter is delivered to the UN, press briefings are to be held in Geneva, New York, and Johannesburg.

There are daily reports on social media about alleged violence in the region. “The UN HRC has the power to cultivate the conditions for peace,” said the Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. “We strongly believe that a UN HRC-mandated fact-finding mission would have the immediate effect of quelling violence and saving lives.”

What has been happening

Conflict in Cameroon stemming from the calls for independence in South Cameroons began in 2016. The people of Southern Cameroon (Ambazonia) have demanded the right to determine whether they want to remain in a union with Cameroon or restore the independence of Southern Cameroons as a sovereign state.

Those calls led to a violent crackdown by President Paul Biya’s Francophone government on the Anglophone population of Southern Cameroon. In 2017 there was an internet shutdown to prevent mass mobilisations against the government and many people were killed by the security forces during protests. There were arbitrary arrests with people detained in already overflowing jails.

Biya won his seventh term in October 2018. The elections were marred by low turnout, especially in the Anglophone zones. He has been in power since 1982. The constitution was changed in 2008 which removed term limits which would allow him to rule for even longer.

During a 2017 march by the Southern Cameroons community living in South Africa, Milton Taka, a spokesperson for the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front said: “Only the Ambazonian flag will fly all over our land. Our people are taking their power back. From today we declare self-rule. Self-determination is an inalienable right and nobody will take that from us.”

Increased humanitarian crisis

There have been all around calls for an increase in attention for Cameroon. Both the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator to Cameroon, Ms. Allegra Baiocchi, and Cameroon’s Civil Protection Director, Ms. Yap Mariatou warned about the increased need for humanitarian assistance due to the Francophone-Anglophone conflict.

“Cameroon today can no longer be a forgotten crisis; it needs to be high on the United Nations agenda” Mariatou said. The UN estimates that around 4.3 million people in Cameroon requires lifesaving assistance. This is one in six people and mostly women and children.

Refugee crisis: Nigeria

There has been a cross fleeing of people. Nigerian people fleeing to Cameroon from the northern Borno state it’s been reported in January 2019. They are fleeing increasing Boko Haram militant attacks.  Reportedly there was a displacement of 30 000 people after a deadly attack that happened on January 14. There have been calls for the Cameroonian government to accept the refugees into the country. This all happens against the backdrop of the violence the Cameroonian government in enacting against its Anglophone-speaking citizens.

Author: Fatima Moosa

Source: thedailyvox.co.za

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The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, has published a new report on the crisis situation in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions.

The report produced in collaboration with humanitarian partners like WFP, UNICEF, WHO and UNHCR, reveals that at least Four Million people are affected, 1.3M People in need, 160,000 People targeted, 437,500 Internally displaced, 500,000 People in need in host communities and 330,000 Other people in need.

Going by the report, the proliferation of armed groups and deployment of defense forces, has shifted the crisis into armed conflict.

It states that more than 1,200 cases of civilian protection rights violations have been registered, mainly involving physical abuse or threats, and lack of legal protection. The report recounts how insecurity and violence have forced more than 400,000 people to flee their homes, most of whom continue to have serious consequences on livelihoods and living conditions.

Regarding the health situation, the report indicates that many of the conflict-hit population are suffering severe emotional stress. About 3,700 unaccompanied or separated children need urgent assistance and psycho-social care. It equally states that more than 40 per cent of clinics and health centres no longer provide vaccinations, less than 15 per cent of births are assisted by skilled attendants.

In response the OCHA report reveals that an Emergency response plan has been developed in May 2018 targeting 160,000 people. Eight clusters have been activated in October. By the end of 2018, the plan was only 40% per cent funded. Going by the report, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Cameroon is being finalised. Planning workshops were held in Buea and Bamenda to ensure appropriate reflection of the crisis in the North-West and South-West in the national level plan

It would be recalled that in December, WFP provided food for 29,000 IDPs in Meme division in South-West region, the first large-scale distribution since the crisis erupted.

Source: journalducameroun


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Over 30,000 Cameroonian refugees fleeing violence are currently seeking refuge in Nigeria, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

According to Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for UNHCR, the needs on the ground to cater for the refugees in Nigeria were outpacing donor efforts.

He said the situation was particularly worrying for women and children, accounting for close to 80 percent of arrivals, saying most of the refugees are sheltering in Nigeria’s southeastern areas, hosted by local communities.

Baloch said reports indicated that scores of people had been killed in English-speaking areas of Cameroon and thousands forced from their homes, including many who have sought refuge in Nigeria.

According to Nigeria Politics, an online platform, the UNHCR boss said the refugee agency was facilitating voluntary relocation of refugees to settlements in Cross River and Benue provinces, which provide better security, shelter and access to essential services.

“Currently, more than 9,000 Cameroonian refugees have been moved to new settlements, where they receive food as well as essential items such as mattresses, mosquito nets, stoves and cooking utensils, as well as equipment to build shelters,” Baloch said.

The UNHCR spokesperson added that women and girls were also being provided with dignity kits, including among other items, buckets, soap and towels.

In some instances, cash assistance is provided to enable refugees buy food directly from the markets in host communities, helping facilitate the integration of those forced to flee and those welcoming them, he stated.

“However, despite the work of UNHCR and other aid organizations, the needs are far from being met and there are several challenges, including education opportunities for refugee children.

“The rainy season and harsh road conditions to remote areas make the assistance to the refugees outside of the newly-developed settlement very difficult, with acute needs for food, shelter, water and sanitation,” he said.

Baloch explained that discussions were ongoing with the Government for improved access to the displaced population.

Source: independent.ng

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As Cameroon heads to elections, experts warn of the fallout from an ongoing separatist crisis in the Anglophone regions.

by Eromo Egbejule

WHAT IS THE ANGLOPHONE CRISIS?

  • Bilingual Cameroon, a union of two parts colonised separately by the British and the French, has long had a fragile harmony.
  • In 2016, the fissures grew larger as the Anglophone minority, protesting the imposition of French systems in the courts and schools were attacked, triggering a war between the government and separatists.

Yaounde, Cameroon – Last October, Fred Assam watched from his hiding place as government soldiers spoon-fed acid to the village chief’s son.

The 24-year-old knew it was time to flee his homeland.

He escaped his village of Mbenyan in southwest Cameroon with a small bag of clothes, abandoning the life he knew behind to the safety of neighbouring Nigeria.

“The soldiers were shooting everyone they saw,” he says from Agbokim, in southern Nigeria. “They killed so many young people in Mbenyan and other villages across the Anglophone regions.”

Assam is one of over 30,000 Cameroonians – including his parents with whom he reunited three months ago – from the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of the country who now live in refugee camps and settlements in southern Nigeria.

Discrepancies between the French and English academic, legal and administrative systems which have always existed concurrently, as well as cries of political and economic marginalisation, crystallised into a series of protests and riots in 2016.

That soon turned bloody as the government, in a bid to quell dissent, first ordered a three-month internet shutdown and deployed soldiers.

In January, separatists including Julius Tabe, the leader of the interim government of “Ambazonia” – the self-declared state consisting of the Anglophone regions – were arrested in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on charges of terrorism.

Back in Cameroon, young untrained fighters are embroiled in a battle with government soldiers, countering sophisticated weaponry with homemade guns, machetes and charms called “odeshi” to make them invisible and invincible.

Trapped in the middle of all this are the estimated 17 million Anglophone Cameroonians who form roughly one-fifth of the population.

I was detained alongside suspected Boko Haram insurgents. There was this lady who was only released recently – she gave birth to her baby in prison.

AGBOR NKONGHO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA

Local groups say the number of people displaced from both regions has doubled to around 200,000 people over the last month and there are about 50,000 refugees in Nigeria.

The International Crisis Group, which says the international reaction has been muted, estimates that at least 2,000 people have died in the conflict, with another 170,000 displaced.

An unknown number of people are also sleeping in open forests in the absence of formal camps. There is a shortage of toilets and proper hygienic conditions for menstruating girls and women in the informal host communities.

Still, the country is pressing on towards an election on Sunday, as incumbent President Paul Biya seeks a seventh term in office.

Meanwhile, the government is headstrong about hosting a continental football competition next January despite the Anglophone crisis.

Observers and civil society leaders are worried about the government’s preoccupation with holding the elections and believe it is an attempt to paper over the cracks and present a united front to the international community.

“The reason I’m not contesting in this election is because of the current security situation,” says Kah Wallah, leader of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP) which is not presenting a presidential candidate.

“You have people sleeping in the open forests. There is conflict in six of the 10 regions in Cameroon. There is intense conflict in the northwest and southwest, then in the Far North [Region], you have about 300,000 people displaced by Boko Haram.

“In the East [Region], there is a spillover from the insecurity in Central African Republic. In Adamawa and the North [Region], there is spillover of the crisis in the East and Far North. There were over 71 kidnappings in Adamawa last year alone. I can’t contest an election with all this happening.”

Along with the secessionists are innocent citizens who have been arrested, detained and in the cases of some jailed for 15-year sentences or longer, on trumped-up charges of terrorism, says Agbor Nkongho, director of Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) in Buea.

Nkongho himself was detained for eight months last year at the Kondengui prison in Yaounde and his trial was adjourned six times before a military tribunal acquitted him last August.

“I was detained alongside suspected Boko Haram insurgents,” he says. “There was this lady who was only released recently – she gave birth to her baby in prison.”

Mental health concerns

Beyond the detentions and displacements, there are concerns about the lingering trauma that could significantly hamper the healing and reintegration process for survivors.

Widows who have lost their spouses to flying bullets, children separated from their parents and citizens who have lost their incomes could have no life to return to.

For secessionist fighters, the option of an amnesty programme and “de-radicalisation” therapies are not on the table, as the government has reportedly backed a shoot-at-sight order with them as the targets.

“Election is overshadowing the crisis especially in the Francophone regions,” concurs Nkongho. “It is a non-issue in the south given the threat by the Ambazonia boys … We’ve not seen any plans to properly take care of the displaced people and the government is not admitting that there are refugees outside the country.”

Many are going through some torture, losing properties and going through serious psychological distress. They don’t know what will happen because things are so unpredictable. Parents watching their children get killed and children watching their parents murdered.

DR ERIC GOLA, MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST

The government’s humanitarian response has been underwhelming, say civil society leaders who point out that its relief programme factored in just 160,000 people, a number likely picked up from a UNOCHA report released earlier this year. The plan does not also address the urgent need for psychosocial support for the displaced population.

“The plan didn’t acknowledge refugees and so made no provision for those in Nigeria,” says Nkongho.

“Also, those who were to manage it are some of those seen as the enemy by the displaced and have no moral authority to implement things and distribute relief. We asked them to include civil society and the clergy who are neutral, but this wasn’t done. It has failed and it’s just a political scheme to show that President Biya cares.”

The CHRDA, which already provides legal aid and relief items to the vulnerable, is in discussions to get immediate psychological help for all those affected by the conflict.

Local churches are also gradually stepping in to fill the void by organizing small-scale trauma healing workshops, but there are few seasoned professionals to join in the process.

Abuse of substances like cannabis and tramadol is also common across both regions, warns Dr Eric Gola, a mental health specialist in Kumbo, in the northwest region.

Since the conflict began in 2016, he has been working with Berikids, one of the few rehabilitation centres nationwide.

“Many are going through some torture, losing properties and going through serious psychological distress. They don’t know what will happen because things are so unpredictable. Parents watching their children get killed and children watching their parents murdered. Soldiers raping.

“The Ambazonia boys are now taking up arms and getting involved in substance abuse to get courage to fight since they are untrained. It is affecting them mentally and rehabilitation centres will face a deluge in the post-war future because most families will have serious psychiatric cases because of the trauma of war.”

Gola was contacted a few months ago by some Catholic priests who wanted to establish centres for managing psychosocial disorders and post-traumatic stress conditions pending the outcome of the conflict. It’s a drive that he wishes the government had.

“The president declared war on Southern Cameroons,” he laments. “He has the yam and the knife to stop the war, release those in detention in connection to the crisis, demilitarise both regions and organise a dialogue with all parties concerned.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

The united nations high commissioner for refugees, UNHCR says it will be collaborating with the cross rivers state government to begin relocation of Cameroon refugees living in host communities to a more permanent settlement.

The settlement located in Adagom community in ogoja local government area of cross rivers state with a capacity to accommodate four thousand refugees is expected to provide the refugees a safe heaven away from the crisis area.

Adagom settlement is where over four thousand of the twenty-five thousand Cameroon refugees in cross river state have been relocated, from the host communities where they had lived for the past ten months… Elias Enu, Lovelyn Etta And Eyon Sheba are among the refugees.

They narrate their ordeals after losing everything they had in Cameroon when the crisis erupted

With thousands of refugees still in host communities spread across eight local government areas of cross river state, south Nigeria  and the influx of more refugees expected from Cameroon, there is a need for more support from humanitarian actors to augment the efforts of the united nations humanitarian commission for refugees and the cross rivers state government

These refugees are hopeful that more help will come especially in the area of education for their children and opportunities for better means of livelihood to feed their families.

Source: AIT

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