By Joan Ejembi
The Human Right Watch (HRW) has raised alarm over forcible deportation of 100,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, who had escaped Boko Haram terrorist violence.
The right group which observed that the action was a breach of international agreements also accused soldiers of attacking and sexually exploiting the refugees.
Cameroon is “punishing” refugees for Boko Haram attacks. 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. In carrying out these deportations, Cameroonian soldiers have frequently used extreme physical violence,” HRW said in a report.
Previously, Cameroon had rejected similar accusations, laying claims that Nigerians have returned willingly.
A 43-year-old man from Borno state told the rights group that his brother had died of internal bleeding after Cameroonian soldiers beat him with a stick.
“They humiliated us like animals and beat us like we were slaves,” he said.
HRW’s associate director for refugee rights, Gerry Simpson, said the Cameroonian army often accused the asylum seekers of being members of Boko Haram themselves, “including women being Boko Haram wives.”
It would be recalled that earlier this year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) criticised Cameroon for forcibly returning hundreds of refugees to north-east Nigeria.
It said the returns had “continued unabated”, despite the signing of an agreement ensuring that any returns would be voluntary.
On its part, the Cameroonian authorities previously claimed that Boko Haram militants have been entering the country disguised as refugees.
The UNHCR says forced return constitutes a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, both of which Cameroon has ratified.
Also, previously, it called on Cameroon to honour its obligations under the conventions and continue keeping its borders open to allow access to territory and asylum procedures for people fleeing the Islamist insurgency.