UNHCR Briefing Notes

Geneva, 11.06.2013

 

1-     UNHCR worry over civilians displaced by fighting in South

Sudan’s Jonglei

 

 2-   Nigeria’s crisis sees more than 6000 people displaced into

neighbouring countries

This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.

 

 1 – UNHCR worry over civilians displaced by fighting in South Sudan’s Jonglei

The UN refugee agency is alarmed by the fighting that has been on-going in Jonglei State, South Sudan since March between government troops and armed groups. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.  In Pibor County in particular, we have seen increasing tension and serious allegations of a break-down in law and order, evidenced among other things by indiscriminate abuses and looting of civilian property. Most of Pibor County’s 148,000 people are affected and many have been displaced more than once by the hostilities. Many people have fled into the bush, into areas that are hard to reach.

The security constraints have made it difficult for us to monitor the situation and to respond to humanitarian needs.  Finding and reaching people affected by fighting in Jonglei is a major concern. When we get access, we have been conducting border monitoring missions to assess population movements and we are sharing this information with neighbouring countries.  Many civilians are walking long distances to find sanctuary in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

In the first five months of this year, we registered 5,397 refugees from Jonglei State at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. These numbers are significant: this is approaching the total that arrived there in all of last year and is more than double the number who arrived in 2011 or 2010.

In Uganda, some 2,700 refugees from Jonglei State have arrived since the beginning of the year, averaging about 527 per month.

The recent fighting in Pibor has resulted in an influx into Ethiopia, but on a smaller scale than some recent reports have suggested. Around 16,000 people arrived mainly between February 2012 and February 2013 – before the most recent fighting. UNHCR assessment teams have just returned from the border inside Ethiopia where they established the arrival of 2,178 refugees between 7 May and 7 June. Some new arrivals reported that more people were on their way to Ethiopia from the Nyalongoro, Kaiwa and Niate areas of South Sudan.

In South Sudan, we are working both in Jonglei State and at the national level to advocate for better protection of displaced people. As part of the humanitarian community, we are engaging with the government, UNMISS (the United Nations Mission in South Sudan), key members of the diplomatic community and other stakeholders at different levels to ensure protection of civilians and improved humanitarian access.

2 – Nigeria’s crisis sees more than 6000 people displaced into neighbouring countries

 The crisis in northeastern Nigeria has forced more than 6,000 mainly women, children and elderly people to seek safety in neighbouring Niger.

Those UNCHR has spoken to say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown on insurgents linked to the Boko Haram sect, particularly in the Baga area of northern Nigeria, close to the Niger border. Refugees report that air strikes by Government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the state of emergency has been in force since May 14th. People arriving in Niger also mention the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several States in Nigeria. Rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected States.  Niger has so far received 6,240 people, comprising Nigerian nationals (2,692) returning Niger nationals (3,544), and 94 people of other nationalities (mainly Chadians). New arrivals have settled mainly in Bosso, Diffa, Kablewa, Maine, Tam, Tcoukoujani and Garin Amadou. Once their families are secure in Niger, men are returning to Nigeria to work and to sustain their families’ needs.

Many new arrivals have walked into Niger, taking refuge in villages located only a few kilometers away from the border. Others, who fled areas located as far as 300 kilometers away such as Maidougouri in Nigeria, have used cars or motor-cycles. New arrivals are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions. UNHCR staff have who visited several border villages hosting new arrivals also met some Nigerian families living out in the open,  under trees.

Although the local population has welcomed those who have newly arrived, the presence of newcomers is also putting a strain on meager local food and water resources. Niger, a country in the Sahel, itself struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought.  UNHCR plans to deliver some relief to the new arrivals as well as to the host community. We are also helping the local authorities to register new arrivals. UNHCR has also seen arrivals in Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks. There are 155 Nigerian asylum seekers in Chad along with 716 Chadian nationals. In Cameroon there are 1,200 returned nationals.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the security situation remains extremely difficult. UNHCR is not present in the parts of the northeast that are under a state of emergency, due to the prevailing insecurity. Information about the humanitarian situation and displaced people in the northeast is consequently limited.

In Adamawa State, insecurity is reportedly worst in the areas of military operations close to the Cameroonian border. Most of the Northeast suffers from chronic and periodic insecurity due to conflict and insurgent activities (from Borno State to Kaduna Sate).

 

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