United Nations Refugee Agency on Tuesday said over 2,600 refugees have been forcefully returned back to Nigeria in 2017.
The UNHCR said these forceful returns have continued unabated after the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon signed a tripartite agreement with UNHCR.
A statement from the UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Baloch, said Cameroonian troops returned refugees against their will, without allowing them time to collect their belongings.
“In one incident on March 4, some 26 men, and 27 women and children, were sent back from the Cameroonian border town of Amtide, in Kolofata district, where they had sought refuge, according to UNHCR monitoring teams in the border regions”.
He said those returned included a one-year-old child and a nine-month pregnant woman, who gave birth the day after her arrival to a camp for displaced people in Banki.
“During the chaos, families were separated and some women were forced to leave their young children behind in Cameroon, including a child less than three years old,” he said.
About 17 people, who claimed to be Cameroonian nationals, were also deported by mistake to Banki, the spokesman added.
“While acknowledging the generosity of the Government of Cameroon and local communities who host over 85,000 Nigerian refugees, UNHCR calls on the Government of Cameroon to honour its obligations under international and regional refugee protection instruments, as well as Cameroonian law.
“The forced return of asylum seekers and refugees is refoulement, or forced return, and constitutes a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, both of which Cameroon has ratified,” Baloch said.
In 2016, about 338 Nigerian asylum-seekers, mainly women and children, were returned by the Cameroonian authorities of the Far North region from Kolofata back to Nigeria.
The agency called on the Cameroonian authorities to take the necessary steps to comply with international standards on the right to asylum and protection.