The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Government of Cameroon and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have signed an agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon.
Mr Hanson Tamfu, External Relations Officer of UNHCR Nigeria, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Friday.
Tamfu said that the Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon was signed on March 2, in Yaonde, Cameroon.
According to him, the agreement is a legal framework that sets out the modalities for the voluntary return of refugees to their country of origin in safety and dignity.
He said that more than 85,000 Nigerian refugees who fled the Boko Haram insurgency in North-East were currently living in the North Region of Cameroon with about 62,000 living in Minawao refugee camp.
Tamfu said that recent profiling exercise undertaken by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also revealed more than 23,000 refugees residing in host communities.
He said that a UNHCR survey conducted in Minawao camp on the intentions of refugees to return back to Nigeria revealed that 71 per cent of the refugees (93,000) indicated their intentions to return.
The refugees, the official said, indicated that they would return when they were sure of the safety and conducive situation in their communities.
He said the UNHCR survey also reveals that there were thousands more Nigerians who fled the violence but have not been reached by aid agencies because of the prevailing insecurity in those areas.
He said that the Minister of Interior, retired Lt.- Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, described the agreement as a welcomed development which underscores the importance of working together to proofer lasting solutions to the refugees crises.
Tamfu said the minister said Nigeria remain committed to ensuring that it creates the conducive atmosphere to facilitate the return of its citizens in safety and dignity, in line with international protection principles.
He said that Mr Emmanuel René Emmanuel, Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, said that the Government of Cameroon would continue to ensure the safety of Nigerian refugees in its territory.
The official said René assured that the government of Cameroon would spare no effort to help those who wish to return to Nigeria, in accordance with international agreements.
Tamfu said both countries and the UNHCR agreed to provide people wishing to return with clear information on the situation prevailing in their areas of return particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
He explained that this was in order to allow them to make a well informed and voluntary decision.
He said the refugees would be given correct information on the security and economic situation as well as access to basic services.