Tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon between the Government of the Republic of Cameroon, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2 March 2017

UNHCR, the Governments of the Republic of Cameroon and the Federal Republic of Nigeria sign a Tripartite Agreement

On 2 March 2017, the Governments of the Republic of Cameroon and the Federal Republic of Nigeria together with UNHCR, signed the Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon. The ceremony took place at the Mont Febe Hotel in Yaounde and saw the participation of a strong and high-level Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of Interior Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau CFR. The Nigerian delegation also included Alhaji Kashim Shettema, the Executive Governor of Borno State, where the majority of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon have come from.

The diplomatic community in Cameroon, showing a vested interest in the subject ever since the conclusions of the Abuja Declaration in June 2016, attended the event in great number. 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. The Far North region of Cameroon is host to more than 85,000 Nigerian refugees, including 62,000 living in Minawao refugee camp, that have fled the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria. Due to ongoing insecurity in certain parts of the Far North region, it is possible that there are thousands more Nigerians who fled the violence but have not been reached by humanitarian agencies.

Each party has undertaken to carry out its part of responsibilities outlined in the Agreement. With respect to refugees being fully informed about the situation in their areas of origin, The Nigerian government has made a firm engagement to provide full information on the situation prevailing in their areas of return in order to allow them to make a well informed and voluntary decision, and to return in safety and dignity, should they choose so.

The signature of the Tripartite Agreement also saw the establishment of the Tripartite Commission which will oversee the implementation phase of the Agreement and ensure that practical modalities are developed to carry out the terms of the agreement. The Commission will be composed of officials from all three parties.

The Nigerian Minister of Interior thanked Cameroon and its people for hosting Nigerian refugees and for showing continued solidarity to those fleeing due to the Boko Haram insurgency. The Cameroonian Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD) mentioned that, following the signing, there would also be a strong need for both countries to focus on alleviating areas on both sides of the border affected by poverty and lack of basic social services. Both Ministers also acknowledged efforts made by UNHCR to support Nigerian refugees in the Far North region of Cameroon. UNHCR’s Representative in Cameroon, Mr. Kouassi Lazare Etien reminded the audience that the “road ahead is still long, but that the signing of the agreement reveals a real desire of Cameroon and Nigeria, to protect refugees by facilitating the process for those that wish to return in safety and dignity, with the support UNHCR”.

The Agreement was signed by Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, H.E. René Emmanuel Sadi, the Nigerian Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau CFR, and UNHCR’s newly appointed Representative in Cameroon, Mr. Kouassi Lazare Etien.

For more information, please contact:

Raïssa Touraire Ngou, Reporting Assistant: NGOU@unhcr.org + 237 693 01 73 80;

Kabami Kalumiya, Associate External Relations Officer: kalumiya@unhcr.org + 237 691 14 12 26