Abuja — The Catholic Church wednesday raised concerns over the growing influx of Cameroonian refugees into border communities in Cross River State, Nigeria.
Caritas Nigeria, an arm of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), said the influx of the refugees into Nigeria has compounded already impoverished Nigerian communities.
The National Director of Caritas Nigeria, Rev. Fr Evaristus Bassey, said in a statement that "recently, there has been increased agitation for self-actualisation in Cameroon, which has led to the destruction of life and destabilisation of the polity and eventual migration of the people of South-West Cameroun into Nigeria through the borders and has created a refugee situation in some states of Nigeria.
"While Caritas Nigeria has carried out assessments in Cross River State where the refugees have the largest concentration, it is seeking for guidance on other areas where the refugees are located to make necessary assessments in Ikom, Etung, Obanliku, Boki, Akamkpa and Akpabuyo LGAs of Cross River State."
Bassey stated that "the group responsible for the rebellion in Cameroon is principally the Ambazonian group whose members are more or less an Advocacy group struggling for total restoration of statehood to the former British colonised part of Cameroun that is often referred to as English speaking. Their objective is the dissolution of the 1961 Union of Southern Cameroun with French Cameroun.
"Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (Caritas Nigeria) through its Diocesan Caritas, known as the Justice Development and Peace/Caritas (JDPC) in the affected region, JDPC Calabar and JDPC Ogoja conducted rapid assessments across some of the affected LGAs receiving large influx of refugees from Cameroun between January 7, and 20, 2018.
"The assessment revealed that the Cameroonian refugees in Cross Rivers State were mostly based in the communities within Nigeria that are sharing borders with Cameroun.
"Most refugees' lived within host communities with relatives or in abandoned government quarters or uncompleted buildings or any available open space.
"They have been dependent on the generosity of their also impoverished host communities for food and clothing as most of them fled for their lives with only the clothes they had on."
He added that "a rapid assessment conducted by JDPC Ogoja in affected communities of Ogoja, Ikom, Boki and Obanliku local government areas in Northern Cross River State, from January 17, 2018 to January 20, 2018, revealed that the refugees though dispersed within the host communities were somewhat organised in that they had leaders who kept records in a register at a central location within each local government area where the refugees could be mustered for registration, information dissemination or distribution of relief materials.
"Their leaders keep records of the arrivals and departure of the refugees in the various communities, thus making tracking a lot less cumbersome.
"From the registration centers in Ikom, Etung, Boki and Obanliku Local Government Areas, we gathered that a total of 22,215 thousand refugees had been registered, as can be seen in the table below.
"It should be noted however that there is still influx of at least 20 persons per day at each of the centres as of 20th January, 2018.
There was a heavy influx of refugees in Akamkpa LGA- Southern Senatorial District in the Oban Corridor of the Cross River National Park. Our investigation showed that statistics had not been taken of the asylum seekers in the area and no relief has reached them.
He appealed "for support for the mitigation of the humanitarian situation that has arisen as a result of influx of Cameroonian Refugees in Nigeria."