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Cameroon should keep borders open for Nigerian refugees - agency

The Norwegian Refugee Council says since November 2018, there has been a steep surge in displacement in northeast Nigeria, triggered by a spike in attacks.

FILE: A picture taken on 8 November 2018 shows the refugee camp of Baga Sola in Southern Chad, where more than 10,000 refugees and internal displaced coming from Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Camerun found a shelter from Boko Haram's threat. Picture: AFP

LAGOS - Cameroon authorities should not shut their borders to thousands of Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram militant attacks in Rann near the frontier, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said on Wednesday.

Rann, in northern Borno state, has been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram, most recently on 14 January, when the jihadists targeted a military base.

The NRC said in a statement it was "alarmed by the massive displacement of 30,000 people from the Nigerian town of Rann into Cameroon, less than one week after 9,000 Nigerians fled a deadly attack in the city."

Eric Batonon, NRC country director in Nigeria said the Nigerian refugees who crossed into Cameroon were forced to return last week.

"We call for Cameroon to keep its borders open. It is crucial that the Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities offer assistance to those fleeing the violence," he said.

"The women, men, and children fleeing are not opportunists; they are civilians fleeing for their lives."

NRC said since November 2018, there has been a steep surge in displacement in northeast Nigeria, triggered by a spike in attacks.

"More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee, many for the second time. This is creating vast humanitarian needs and stretching the capacity of already congested camps and sites across the region," it said.

"However, by denying assistance and protection to those fleeing, needs are exacerbated and affected communities will continue to rely on humanitarian assistance," it added.

The UN said on Tuesday more than 30,000 people have fled Rann and across the border to Cameroon in recent days because of fears of renewed Boko Haram attacks.

The latest mass movement comes as the UN voiced renewed concern about the effect of the bloody conflict on civilians and launched a longer-term plan to help those made homeless by the fighting.

UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva that recent fighting in Borno had forced more than 80,000 people to flee their homes.

Boko Haram's jihadist insurgency which began in 2009 has killed 27,000 people and forced more than two million others to flee, triggering a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.

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