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A meeting of the Tripartite Commission comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has fixed February 27th, and March 7th, 2021, as the commencement date for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees towards their resettlement in Borno State.
The meeting held in Marwa, Northern Cameroon, agreed that about 46,000 Nigerians, mostly from Borno, who have been taking refuge in Minawao Refugee Camp, located in Mokolo, far north region of Cameroon, would be now be repatriated.
The meeting brought together the Cameroonian delegation led by the host country’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Mr Paul Atanga Nji, Governor of far North Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakary, and some humanitarian officials.
The Nigerian Delegation was led by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, top officials from the Nigerian High Commission in Cameroon, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the Ministry’s Humanitarian Director, as well as a representative of the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, among others.
The Borno State Governor and the Federal Humanitarian officials from Nigeria and Cameroon, were at the Minawao camp on Wednesday, before returning to Maruwa, capital of the far north region, for the tripartite commission meeting.
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The initial target of Governor Zulum was to have the first batch of 9, 800 willing Nigerian refugees repatriated this week for resettlement in newly built houses located in Bama and Banki, the meeting came up with a revised standard operating procedure, signed by all parties, agreeing that repatriation should hold on February 27th and March 7th, 2021.
The tripartite commission was established after a tripartite agreement was signed in Cameroon on March 2, 2017, between the Governments of Nigeria, the Republic of Cameroon and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, on the repatriation of Nigerian refugees, who fled to Cameroon in 2014 over attacks by Boko Haram in parts of Borno and Adamawa States.
The agreement created a legal framework, which identified modalities for the voluntary, dignified, and safe return of refugees to their countries of origin with all parties agreeing to critically assess the safety of resettlement destinations, ensure that the refugees are well informed of the realities of where they will return.
This, the agreement says is to enable them to make informed decisions while neither Nigerian officials nor communities in Cameroon should force refugees to leave.
The UNHCR was to keep supporting the refugees and protecting their rights and obedience to local laws under the UN convention.
A tripartite commission with representatives from Nigeria, Cameroon and the UNHCR was then established to monitor the implementation of the tripartite agreement by ensuring all parties live to their signed commitments in favour of refugees.
Majority of refugees at the Minawao refugee camp, who are mostly from Borno State, have regularly appealed to Governor Babagana Umara Zulum to spearhead their repatriation to safe and rebuilt communities in Borno to return to a decent living.
In September 2019, Zulum during his trip to the camp promised citizens that he would in response to their appeal, work with stakeholders towards their successful reparation and dignified resettlement in over 6,000 houses at different levels of completion.