Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Boko Haram attacks on their villages in the North-East has forced thousands of people, especially women and children, to flee the villages for neibghouring Niger republic where they are not finding any comfort.

Although the Nigerien government has granted them refugee status, they live rough under trees and shelter in cardboard boxes, lined up along dusty roads.

Some United Nations workers said on Tuesday that the construction of formal camps for them had been banned by the Nigerien authorities in order to curtail further the influx of “refugees” or even bring fighters over their border communities with Nigeria.

Gremah Umara, a 28-year-old Nigerian, who fled with his wife and two-year-old daughter captured their plight succinctly when he spoke with Reuters.

“We’re living on the charity and hospitality of locals and aid organizations. It’s difficult to feed my family. We eat once a day, twice at best,” he lamented.

When the Umara family arrived in Guessere, a small village in Diffa just 1.3 miles from the frontier, they found other Nigerians living outside in the harsh desert winter – scorching hot by day, freezing by night.

Thousands of other refugees are scattered in villages along the border, straining food resources for a local population already hit by cyclical droughts, diseases and high birth rates.

A spokesman for Niger’s Interior Ministry was not immediately available for comment but the General-Secretary of Diffa province, Hassane Ido, said authorities feared militants might infiltrate the camps and use them as bases for attacks.

“We are trying to handle the situation and stop any act that could hurt our security,” he said.

His caution echoed worries across the region that Boko Haram’s campaign could spread instability. The affected areas of northern Nigeria also border Chad and Cameroon.

The UN refugee agency’s Country Representative in Niger, Karl Steinacker, said Niamey was particularly worried because most of the refugees came from the Kanuri ethnic group, a stronghold of Boko Haram.

He added, “The authorities are worried the Nigerian insurgency might spill over into Niger.”From a security point of view, camps are often difficult to handle … I think it was for that reason that the Niger government didn’t want camps for the Nigerians. They must believe that they can better control a dispersed refugee population than one concentrated in a camp.”
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