By Chioma Iruke
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stated that going by the pockets of insurgency in the North-East region, it is not yet time to fully relocate refugees and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their homeland in Borno State, Nigeria as well as Cameroon and Niger.
This was even as he noted that the voluntary return of the refugees was depended on the conditions in Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis.
Speaking on the prolonged crisis in the Lake Chad region, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Raouf Mazou, who visited to Borno State and some part of Cameroon to assess the humanitarian conditions brought about by the ongoing war between the government and non-state actors, said not all parts of the state are safe enough to return the displaced persons.
The commissioner, who arrived in Nigeria last Monday, said he had visited Cameroon where there are over 100,000 Nigerian refugees, and in the Northeast, he visited a number of camps, including Banki, where there are 40,000 IDPs and refugees who returned from Cameroon.
He disclosed that in Borno State, he discussed with the authorities on the traumatic IDPs situation and the return of refugees from Cameroon and other countries.
Mazou disclosed that there were 170,000 Nigerian refugees in Niger, and about 16,000 Nigerian refugees in Chad.
He said in order to return the displaced persons, an assessment of the area where the planned relocation is to be effected needs to be done by a team that should comprise of the government, military and the humanitarian agencies.
Mazou, who addressed a press conference after his assessment tour, said not until all members of the team give a green light and put in place the needed structure the relocation should not be sanctioned.
He however appealed for global assistance for humanitarian needs of the people in the troubled region, noting that the world should be worried about happenings in the sub-Saharan region, especially the Lake Chad axis.
The commissioner said the international attention needs more than ever before be focused on emerging realities in the Lake Chad region.
Mazou had during his high-level mission, met government officials, partners, diplomats, as well as IDPs and refugee returnees in the Northeast to hear their situation first-hand and to analyse efforts and progress made to support them in rebuilding their lives.