The U.N. refugee agency says it is making contingency plans in Nigeria to care for a possible influx of tens of thousands of Anglophone Cameroonian refugees. Unrest is growing in English-speaking parts of Cameroon amid tensions with the French-speaking majority.
The refugee agency estimates 5,000 Cameroonians have fled to southeastern Nigeria following a crackdown against protesters in the Anglophone community. But UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told VOA he fears that number will swell, so preparations are under way to assist growing numbers of refugees.
"UNHCR is working with the Nigerian authorities readying assistance for at least up to 40,000 who may be forced to flee Cameroon," said Baloch. "... Colleagues think it may be a conservative estimate. There could be more people who could flee Cameroon into Nigeria."
Deadly protests erupted in Cameroon nearly one year ago when members of the English-speaking community began demonstrating against their marginalization by the dominant French-speaking authorities.
The situation in the country has continued to worsen. Early this month, at least eight people reportedly were shot dead by soldiers in two English-speaking regions.
Baloch said the UNHCR and Nigerian authorities have registered about 2,000 Cameroonians who have fled to different locations in southeastern Nigeria. He says another 3,000 are waiting to be registered, so they too can receive food and other assistance.
He said aid workers are bracing for more arrivals as many people might be trapped in forests on the Cameroonian side as they attempt to cross the border.