By Dipo Olowookere
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed shock over the tragic death of six Nigerian asylum-seekers, among them three children, who were killed in a blast in the far north of Cameroon.
In a statement issued by the agency, it said, “This tragic incident is a disappointing testament of continuing forced returns (refoulements) of refugees and asylum-seekers from Cameroon, despite numerous appeals by UNHCR to the Cameroonian government to respect its obligations.”
Speaking on the matter, the Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa, Valentin Tapsoba, stated that, “The forced return of refugees and asylum-seekers is in violation of the principle of non-refoulement which constitutes the cornerstone of international refugee law to which the Cameroonian State is party.”
Business Post reports that UNHCR learnt that on July 29, about 12 asylum-seekers were being forcibly returned to Banki, Nigeria, in a Cameroonian army truck which drove over an improvised explosive device that exploded.
Six Cameroonian soldiers and six other asylum-seekers were also injured in the incident, which took place in Homaka, Mayo Sava Division.
Over 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cameroon have been forcibly returned to Nigeria since the beginning of 2018.
UNHCR has once again called upon the government of Cameroon to refrain from carrying out further forced returns of Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers.
It also reminded Cameroon of its obligations under international law relating to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and the commitments it made by signing the Tripartite Agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon in March 2017.
“UNHCR reiterates its appeal to authorities to provide Nigerian refugees with unhindered access to asylum and stands ready to support Cameroon to ensure all individuals seeking safety have access to efficient screening, registration and documentation procedures,” the statement obtained by this newspaper disclosed.
Some 96,000 Nigerian refugees have sought safety in the Far North region of the country, with more than 8,000 new refugees registered since the beginning of 2018.
Cameroon currently hosts more than 367,000 refugees and asylum- seekers.
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