Thousands Fled After Burkina Faso Massacre – UN

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

More than 3,300 people, most of them children, fled their homes in Burkina Faso’s volatile north following the country’s worst massacre in years, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The UN refugee agency said thousands of children were among those who fled Solhan village, near the border with Niger and Mali, after gunmen stormed in on Saturday, massacring civilians.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said at least 138 men, women and children had been “executed” in the attack, while nearly 40 people were seriously injured.

Local sources have put the number of dead at at least 160, marking the deadliest attack since Islamist violence erupted in the West African country in 2015.

The slaughter in the early hours of Saturday followed the slaying of 14 people late Friday in the village of Tadaryat in the same region, where jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been targeting civilians and soldiers.

“Fearing for their lives, over 3,300 people fled to the nearby villages of Sebba and Sampelga, among them more than 2,000 children and over 500 women,” Baloch told journalists in Geneva.

“They arrived with few or no belongings,” he said, adding that most “were generously welcomed by local families who are sharing what little they have.”

Baloch said that the new arrivals urgently needed water, sanitation, shelter, plus essential aid items and medical care.

UNHCR and its partners were building 200 shelters and providing assistance, but said more resources were needed to scale up the response.

Baloch said that the massacre came just a few weeks after gunmen shot at UNHCR and other aid organisation vehicles on the road between the city of Dori and the Goudoubo camp, housing some 12,200 Malian refugees and asylum seekers.

While no-one was injured in that attack, he warned that “growing insecurity and the presence of armed groups in several regions of Burkina Faso increasingly hamper the delivery of aid and protection for those in need.”

UNHCR, he said, “calls for concerted action to reinforce the protection of civilians and reminds all parties that humanitarian organisations are carrying out life-saving interventions in an independent and impartial manner.”

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks from groups including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).

The attacks, which have claimed at least 1,400 lives, first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.

Since 2019, violence in the country has forced more than 1.2 million people to flee their homes, according to UNHCR numbers.

Just since the start of this year, some 150,000 people have become internally displaced in the country, Baloch said, adding that 84 percent of them were women and children.

AFP

Cameroon Repatriates Over 5,000 Nigerian Refugees To Borno

Cameroonian officials, led by Minister for Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji have repatriated over 5,000 Nigerian refugees to Borno State Government.

According to a statement on the Facebook page of Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, the handing over took place on Monday in Amchiide, a border community between Nigeria and Cameroon, close to Banki in Bama Local Government Area of Borno central.

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The handover ceremony was attended by top officials from Cameroon, including the Governor of the Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakary, and officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The statement added that the returnees were part of thousands of Nigerians, mostly from Borno, who since 2014, fled in batches to Minawao camp located in Mokolo, far north region of Cameroon, to escape Boko Haram’s killings.

“Cameroonian Minister for Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji Paul announced that President Paul Biya had approved a big relief package which included food items, mattresses, blankets, and other non-food items for distribution to all 5,000 returnees as support.

“The Minister commended Governor Zulum for constructing homes where the refugees were to be resettled.

“Governor Zulum had approved funds and supervised the ongoing construction of over 6,000 urban and low-cost resettlement houses sited in Banki, Gwoza, Kondugu, Kaga, and different others, with a substantial number already completed. Majority of them are used for resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons,” the statement added.

Zulum in response thanked the Cameroonian President, other officials, and host communities, for taking good care of Nigerian refugees in the last six years.

The governor also appreciated the donation made by President Biya.

14 Migrants Die, 139 Rescued Off Tunisia

File photo of a patrol boat transporting migrants  (Photo by Alessandro FUCARINI / AFP)

 

At least 14 migrants, including four children, drowned while 139 were rescued Tuesday after two boats sank off the coast of Tunisia, the country’s national guard told AFP.

The rescue operation was carried out by the national guard, its spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said, noting that “the search is still on for survivors and bodies”.

The death “toll could yet rise”, he warned, adding that the bodies of nine women and one man had so far been retrieved, along with those of the four children.

READ ALSO: WHO Says COVID-19 Early Alarm Fell On Some Deaf Ears

The boats left shore on Monday night or early Tuesday and carried migrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa who were attempting to reach Europe illegally, Jebabli said.

The past year has seen an upsurge of makeshift boats attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest route for would-be migrants to Europe.

Between January 1 and February 21, 3,800 migrants arrived illegally in Italy by sea, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), including nearly 1,000 via Tunisia and 2,500 via neighbouring Libya.

Among illegal arrivals in Italy during 2020, Tunisian citizens constituted the biggest national contingent, numbering 12,000, UNHCR said.

But many foreign nationals have also made for Europe from the North African country.

In February, 22 migrants of various African nationalities who departed Sidi Mansour, near the city of Sfax, disappeared at sea, while 25 were rescued by the Tunisian navy around 100 kilometres (approximately 60 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa. One body was retrieved.

In January, the Tunisian navy intercepted 50 migrants, including four Tunisians.

AFP

Suspected Boko Haram Terrorists Abduct Aid Worker, Others Along Maiduguri-Damaturu Road

Borno is situated in northeast Nigeria.
A map of Borno, a state in north-east Nigeria.

 

An aid worker has been abducted along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.

Family sources confirmed the abduction of one Abubakar Idris, a staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Maiduguri.

The abduction occurred on Saturday morning around Jakana village, where no fewer than 20 travellers were abducted in a raid.

According to sources, the criminals believed to be insurgents, disguised as soldiers and mounted a checkpoint where they accosted travellers.

Channels Television learned that while the travellers were searched and asked to display their Identity cards; Idris was immediately ordered down while other passengers were released to proceed.

READ ALSO: Air Force Kills ‘Several’ Boko Haram Terrorists In Borno

Another Maiduguri-bound traveller simply identified as Comrade Muazu Bawa was also reportedly abducted in yesterday’s operation. It is not clear if there are more victims, considering the coordination of the attack.

The insurgents took advantage of the free road on that axis and their multiple exit routes around Jakana to beat security at the highly fortified 136km road and abduct passengers.

Travellers say since the December 18th attack that left many abducted, the security presence is heavy on the road.

Zulum Seeks UN Support On Return Of Nigerian Refugees In Neighbouring Countries

A file photo of Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum. Photo: [email protected]

 

Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum has called for support from the United Nations for over 200,000 refugees from his state who are in neighbouring countries to return home.

The governor urged UNHCR, a UN refugee agency, to support in returning Borno residents taking refuge in neighbouring Cameroon and the Niger Republic.

Zulum made the call on Thursday at a stakeholders’ implementation meeting on the Global Compact of Refugees in Abuja.

The event was organised by the Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

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He noted that most of the refugees have been agitating to return to their communities to pick up the pieces of their lives.

“We need to follow up commitment with action, which is very important. One of the importance of this Global Compact of Refugees is to support citizens of countries of origin for the return of refugees back to their home country,

“I am of the view that we should first look at how we can help to support Nigerians who are taking refuge in another country, especially those who are living in the neighbouring Niger Republic as well as the Republic of Cameroon who have been agitating in the past.

“This is very important because we have over 200,000 from Borno State who are now refugees in countries like Cameroon, Republic of Niger and Chad.

“The government of Borno is willing to support and work with the humanitarian sector to ensure the return of Nigerian refugees in other countries,” Zulum said.

The Governor added that many communities have been resettled in the last couple of months and the state government is not forcing anyone to return but people are going back to their communities voluntarily.

Also at the event, UNHCR country representative to Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya said, the global compact on refugees has four key objectives they are; ease the pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

Other speakers at the meeting include the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajjia Sadiya Umar Farouq.

The UN country director also said despite Nigeria’s complex humanitarian challenges, the country has been host country to over 61,000 Cameroonian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cross River, Benue and Taraba since 2017.

She added that Nigeria has also hosted about 4,300 urban refugees from the DRC, CAR, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.

DR Congo Violence Displaces Over One Million In Six Months – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes in the violence-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the start of the year, the UN said Tuesday.

The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, voiced alarm at an increasing number of attacks by armed groups on displaced civilians, saying it was “appalled” by the surging violence.

“In the last eight weeks, UNHCR and its partners have recorded multiple attacks by armed groups on displacement sites and villages,” it said in a statement.

It said the attacks were mainly in Djugu Territory in Ituri province; in Fizi and Mwenga Territories in South Kivu province; and Masisi and Rutshuru Territories in North Kivu province.

“Violence has displaced more than one million people in the last six months in these areas,” the refugee agency said.

The UNHCR urged the authorities in the DRC to strengthen the police and military presence in the east “to improve the security situation and hold the perpetrators accountable”.

– Killings, mutilation –

“UNHCR is receiving accounts of the way armed groups are unleashing terror on people as they flee, in displacement sites and hosting areas, and when they attempt to return, including reports of killings and mutilation, sexual violence and looting,” the agency said.

“The displaced population is also subject to reprisal attacks for their perceived support for the army by returning armed groups, once the army completes operations to clear areas and is no longer present.”

The agency said the attacks were worsening an already complex displacement situation in eastern DRC and were piling pressure on the areas hosting internal migrants, which were lacking food, water and healthcare services.

It also said health centres had been attacked, with medicines to treat people potentially exposed to HIV being looted.

The DRC has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world, according to the UN.

Over five million people within the country’s borders have been uprooted by insecurity, while nearly a million more have sought safety in neighbouring countries as refugees.

– Funding shortfall –

The UNHCR said those uprooted were overwhelmingly women and children and it was providing shelter, relief items and cash.

The agency appealed for further funding, saying it had only received 21 percent of the $168 million (149.59 million euros) it needed for its DRC operations this year.

Some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the capital Kinshasa, the eastern DRC is one of Africa’s flashpoints.

It was the theatre of two major wars, which ran from 1996-1997 and from 1998-2003, the second of which eventually involved nine countries and two dozen armed groups.

Millions died from the fighting, disease or malnutrition and violence and volatility remain acute today.

North Kivu in particular has suffered at the hands of militia groups, especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a mainly Muslim movement that originated in neighbouring Uganda in the 1990s.

Ethnic violence in Ituri, involving the Lendu and Hema communities, has meanwhile claimed nearly 300 lives since March.

AFP

COVID-19: Cameroonian Refugees In Cross River Receive Relief Items

A UNHCR official inspects a scene.
A UNHCR official inspects a scene.

 

Cameroonian refugees seeking asylum in Cross River State on Tuesday received relief items aimed at cushioning the harsh economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The items, which were said to worth millions of naira, were distributed by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the National Commissioner for Refugees, Migrants, And Internally displaced persons.

The refugee settlement located at Adagom and Ukende/Akpakpanga in Ogoja Local Government Area of Cross River State serves as a home for thousands of refugees.

According to the UNHCR, Cross River State plays host to over 70 thousand refugees and the agency intends to strengthen COVID-19 awareness within the camp.

The refugees were also presented with cleaning agents and other products to encourage proper hygiene and prevent COVID-19 spread in the camp.

UN: Nigeria Has 218,000 Refugees In Cameroon, Chad, Niger Republic

 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that there are about 218,000 Nigeria refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the UNHCR country representative, Mr Anthonio Canhandula, urged the Federal Government to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.

Mr Canhandula added that Nigeria is currently housing 46,000 refugees from Cameroon, which is spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.

He also noted that only 1.2 million of the 1.8 million accessible Internally Displaced Persons are receiving assistance – a situation which he believes requires urgent attention.

UNHCR Calls For More Efforts To Alleviate Suffering Of IDPs

UN To Help 40,000 Cameroonian Refugees In Nigeria

 

The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has called for additional efforts from states and the Federal Government to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerian refugees in neighbouring countries as well as Internally Displaced Persons living in camps across Nigeria.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of the 2019 International Day for Refugees in Abuja, the country’s representative for the UN agency, Antonio Canhandula, noted that recent crisis in Zamfara and Sokoto States have swelled the numbers of Nigerian refugees in Niger and Cameroon.

According to him, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of response to the IDPs.

He also maintained that its time for countries that are a signatory to the Kampala Convention to domesticate the terms of 2009 agreement, which seeks to protect the rights of refugees and IDPs.

UNHCR Asks Italy To Allow Migrants Trapped On Boat To Disembark

UN To Help 40,000 Cameroonian Refugees In Nigeria

 

The United Nations refugee agency called Wednesday on the Italian government to allow 177 migrants trapped on a coastguard vessel near the Sicilian port of Catania to disembark “for humanitarian and medical reasons”, adding that there were 34 children on board.

The Diciotti vessel rescued the migrants six days ago but Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has insisted he will not allow them to land unless other European Union countries promise to take some of them in.

Aid organisations Save The Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) backed the UNHCR’s call on Wednesday.

The case has continued to stir controversy in Italy with renowned anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano — who has been a trenchant critic of Salvini — accusing the government of “taking 177 human beings hostage”.

Saviano said on Tuesday that the case of the Diciotti “represents a very serious and illegal case of abduction of multiple persons by the state”.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, whose ministry controls the coastguard, said he hoped a solution could be found quickly.

“We are waiting for Europe, above all those pro-Europeans such as (French President Emmanuel) Macron and (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel… to come forward,” Toninelli told the Euronews channel on Tuesday evening, complaining that previous agreements to relocate migrants rescued by Italy earlier this summer had not yet been fulfilled.

Late Wednesday Salvini on said he had given permission for 29 children on the vessel to disembark, though it was unclear if this was an official request.

“There are 29 children onboard the Diciotti? They can disembark. Now, Even if Brussels is sleeping,” Salvini said in a Facebook comment.

He had previously threatened to send the migrants on the Diciotti back to Libya if no European solution is found.

The 177 migrants were spending their seventh night on board the vessel on Wednesday, and their second off Catania.

“They are very well,” insisted Toninelli, adding that they were being “given constant medical checks, they are fed and therefore they are in excellent conditions”.

However, journalists at the scene said conditions were difficult overnight due to rain and bad weather.

Three prosecutors in Sicily said Wednesday they had opened investigations over the migrants on the vessel, including into possible people smuggling.

Italy’s new government, formed by the League and the populist Five Star Movement after elections in March, has set a goal of zero migrant arrivals in Italian ports.

AFP

UNHCR, Benue Govt To Provide Immediate Intervention To Cameroonian Refugees

Boko-haram-refugeesThe United Nation High Commission for Refugees and the Benue state government have assured the over 10,000 Anglophone Cameroonian refugees forces to flee their country because of the ongoing military crackdown, of a better camp welfare.

The UNHCR country representation, Mister Antonio Jose Canhandula gave the assurance of immediate intervention from the international community, when the Benue state emergence management agency led him to assess the conditions of the refugees.

One of the refugees, Osar Ferdinand stated the discomfort being experienced in the hands of the Cameroonian government, all in the struggle for equitable distribution of resources and their pitiable conditions at the Abande Refugee Camp in Benue state.

They appealed for help in the areas of food, bedding and medical services.

The UNHCR country representative has assured the refugees of immediate assistance before the end of January.

This particular case of Anglophone Refugees who have other camps in Cross River state in Nigerian and the ongoing herdsmen killing in the country, further underscore the need for the United Nation to urgently step in to help Nigerian and Cameron.

Benue Govt Warns IDP Camp Officials Against Diversion Of Relief Materials

The Benue State government has threatened to arrest any official caught diverting relief materials from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp set up in Makurdi for the victims of the flood in the state.

This warning by the government is following a stand-off between camp officials and the IDPs who demanded an explanation on the movement of relief materials out of the camp.

READ ALSO: UNHCR, NSCDC Donate Relief Materials To Benue Flood Victims

The deputy governor and chairman of the flood disaster management committee, in the state, Benson Abounu, issued the threats on Sunday following the alleged movement of relief materials without his approval.

But for the timely intervention of the Deputy Governor in the ensuing crisis, representatives of the IDPs were up against the camp management and the camp security which they accused of complicity in the unauthorized movement of the items.

The conflict between representatives of the IDPs and camp officials was almost turning into a free for all, before the attention of the deputy governor was drawn to the matter, upon arrival at the camp.