After almost 50 years of taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees from various neighbouring states, Cameroon is shredding its reputation as a generous refugee-hosting country. Working to push back Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has secured an increasingly violent foothold in northern Cameroon since 2013, Cameroon’s military deems tens of thousands of Nigerian asylum seekers a threat to their security goal and has carried out a policy of mass forced return of this vulnerable population. The Cameroonian military’s aim seems to be to clear Nigerians out of the country and dissuade other would-be asylum seekers from seeking Cameroon’s protection.
Since early 2015, the Cameroonian authorities have summarily deported at least 100,000 Nigerians living in remote border areas back to war, displacement, and destitution in Nigeria’s Borno State. At least 4,402 are known to have been deported in the first seven and a half months of 2017. In carrying out these deportations, Cameroonian soldiers have frequently used extreme physical violence. Some, including children, weakened after living for months or years without adequate food and medical care in border areas, have died during or just after the deportations, and children have been separated from their parents.
The forced returns are a flagrant breach of the principle of nonrefoulement, binding on Cameroon under national Cameroonian as well as international law. They are also being carried out in defiance of UNHCR’s late 2016 plea to all governments not to return anyone to northeastern Nigeria “until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably.”
Report by the Human Rights Watch
“They Forced Us Onto Trucks Like Animals” – Cameroon’s Mass Forced Return and Abuse of Nigerian Refugees1.73 MB