Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently accused Cameroon of breaking international law by forcefully deporting at least 100,000 Nigerians who had fled there to escape Islamist Boko Haram militants.
Human Rights Watch said the deportation reported since 2015 was one of the largest illegal forced repatriations it had seen in recent years, and were in “flagrant breach” of global and Cameroonian law.
Cameroon’s minister of communications, Issa Tchimora Bakary declined to comment on the report, which said the army had been detaining the refugees and torturing some of them, before the authorities pushed them back into neighbouring northeast Nigeria.
Cameroon signed a treaty in March with Nigeria and the UNHCR (U.N. refugee agency) to ensure that all refugee returns are voluntary but the rights group said Cameroon’s violations had continued.
The report stated that Cameroon has been aggressively screening and scrutinising newly arriving Nigerians at the border, subjecting some of them to torture, abuse and containing them in far-flung and under-serviced border villages”. The report further stated that “This policy of blocking asylum seekers from accessing protection has made it easier for Cameroon to deport them,” , adding that the UNHCR has been denied access.
The UNHCR said the report was broadly in line with its own understanding of the situation, though it could not confirm all the details in the paper.
Nigeria is struggling to cope with millions of people dependent on emergency relief for food, shelter and medicine, victims of an eight-year conflict in which at least 20,000 lives have been lost.
At least 10.7 million people are in need of assistance in the region, mainly in Nigeria but also in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to the United Nations.