The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was shocked to learn of the tragic death of six Nigerian asylum-seekers, among them three children, who were killed in a blast in the far north of Cameroon.
The UN refugee agency, said it had learnt that on July 29, 12 asylum-seekers were being forcibly returned to Banki, Nigeria, in a Cameroonian army truck, which drove over an improvised explosive device that exploded.
UNHCR added that six Cameroonian soldiers and six other asylum-seekers were also injured in the incident, which took place in Homaka, Mayo Sava Division.
Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa, Valentin Tapsoba, condemned the forcible return of Nigeria’s asylum-seekers from Cameroon.
“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 Government of Cameroon to respect its obligations.
“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,” Tapsoba said.
No fewer than 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cameroon had been forcibly returned to Nigeria since the beginning of 2018, the UN refugee agency said.
Tapsoba further said: “UNHCR once again calls upon the government of Cameroon to refrain from carrying out further forced returns of Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers.
“It also reminds 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”.
Some 96,000 Nigerian refugees had sought safety in the Far North region of Cameroon, with more than 8,000 new refugees registered since the beginning of 2018, UNHCR said.
According to the UN refugee agency, Cameroon currently hosts more than 367,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.