Tripartite Agreement on the voluntary return of Nigerian Refugees signed in Yaounde

Cameroon and Nigeria’s governments together with the UNHCR have signed on March 2,2017 in Yaounde, an historical agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in the cameroonian territory.

The tripartite accord signed between the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is henceforth out to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of refugees living in Cameroon. Rene Emmanuel SADI, Minister of territorial administration and decentralisation leading the Cameroonian delegation, thanked the various parties for their engagement on the voluntary return of nigerian refugees. He gave assurance on the continuous protection of Nigerian refugees  living in our territories. Though there has been an influx of Nigerians during the Boko Haram crisis, the current tripartite accord is a positive sign. He said : « First of all, the signing of this agreement is a clear indication that the Boko Haram terrorists’ groups whose exactions were at the origin of the refugees’ crisis has been considerably weakened…We are convinced that as we are winning the fight against Boko Haram, we will win the fight against poverty…». While praising the efforts of the two Heads of states of Cameroon and Nigeria, Minister SADI praised the bravery of soldiers in the Multi national task force. He once more seized the occasion to thank and encourage local groups such as administrative and religious authorities, vigilante committees who have helped in the fight of the common enemy, Boko Haram. More than 85,000 Nigerian refugees  who fled the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria have been living mostly in the Minawao camp in the Far north region of Cameroon.

In his keynote address, the Representative of UNHCR, Lazare Etien Kouassi said: « signing this agreement reveals a real desire by Cameroon and Nigeria to find a durable solution for the refugees who are willing to return in safety and dignity with the support of the UNHCR ». He said the present accord does not mean all refugees will be repatriated immediately. Those who are not yet ready to leave, still keep their status of refugees.

Nigeria’s Minister of interior Lt General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau on his part expressed the satisfaction of his government as concerns the long and fruitful cooperation ties. He said the signing of this agreement is the achievement of a great pace. « Nigeria is pleased to be part of this agreement because it highlights the importance of working together to bring a lasting solution to the refugee situation of our citizens. We have showed our concerns and roles in the protection of Rights and dignity ». Lt General Abdulrahman mentioned the fact that getting back home will not be easy for many because their houses were destroyed but measures have been taken for resettlement of families.

The parties 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 states in Northeastern Nigeria in order to allow them to make a well informed and voluntary decision.

The Tripartite Agreement is a legal framework setting out the modalities for the voluntary return of refugees to their country of origin in safety and dignity. It is a process set up by Cameroon and the Federal Republic of Nigeria in September 2016, during which a survey was conducted on the intentions of refugees to return as soon as the situation is conducive in their areas of origin. The survey conducted in Minawao camp has showed a 71,04 percent Yes for voluntary return while 27,97 percent answered No.

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