Boko Haram refugees have been forcibly returned to Nigeria, says UNHCR

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Nigerian refugees arrive by canoe near Bagasola, Chad, after crossing Lake Chad. © UNHCR/A.Ndayisaba

The operation to return civilians who fled a massacre by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria must stop immediately, the UN refugee agency has said.

The UNHCR appeal comes after hundreds of people were reportedly transported back from Niger into Nigeria by bus on Wednesday.

The agency says the operation should cease in view of the volatile security situation in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that up to 2,000 people were slaughtered earlier in January by Boko Haram militia in the towns of Maidugiri, Potiskum and Baga.

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said the refugees who continue to flee Nigeria have harrowing tales of killing and destruction:

"A woman who ran away from Baga with her five children and her husband said she saw insurgents run over women and children with their cars, shoot at people and use knives to cut their throats in the street. She estimated that hundreds of people had been killed in Baga."

The operation to return refugees apparently involves Niger and Nigerian authorities.

UNHCR says 20 buses were allocated to take villagers back to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in Nigeria.

For the time being however it appears that the operation has been suspended, according to UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the UN agency says refugees continue to leave Nigeria for neighbouring Niger and Chad.

An estimated 153,000 people have fled Nigeria to neighbouring countries since a state of emergency was declared in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in May 2013.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations.

Duration : 1’37″


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