▪ The right to return to one’s place of origin is a fundamental human right. Returns of Nigerian refugees are to be conducted under a Tripartite Agreement, ensuring compliance with international standards.
▪ Any returns or relocations should be informed and voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable with basic services and infrastructure in place and freedom of movement provided to enable returnees to engage in meaningful livelihood activities, thereby reducing dependency on government or humanitarian assistance.
The return of refugees to Mallam Fatori and any other unsafe location needs to be reviewed in light of these principles.
▪ Even when the Government of Nigeria intends to facilitate the return of refugees to Nigeria outside of the Tripartite Agreement, refugees should be given the option to return to any location of their choice within Nigeria.
▪ Close coordination between the Government of Nigeria and the humanitarian, development and stabilization communities is recommended for the identification of durable solutions to displacement – including for the case returnees in Mallam Fatori -- and their effective communication to and involvement of the affected Nigerian populations.
▪ Relocations and returns of Nigerian IDPs need to be guided by the Kampala Convention (2009), the Borno State’s ‘Return Strategy’ (2018), the National IDP Policy (2021) and other applicable frameworks.
Background and rationale:
Achieving durable solutions that are informed, voluntary, safe, and dignified with the involvement of displaced populations and members of the host community at all stages of the process is a shared objective of the Government of Nigeria (GoN)/Borno State Government (BSG) and the humanitarian community. The 2018 BSG Return Strategy, endorsed by the humanitarian community, lays out minimum conditions for returns in compliance with international law, recognizing that refugee returns are only to be conducted within the framework of Tripartite Agreements. However, the BSG – citing improved security conditions – has announced to return up to 3,000 households in groups of 500 after Ramadan outside of the Tripartite Framework. The BSG Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (MRRR) is leading the returns.
Consequently, 500 Nigerian refugee households (amounting to 4,000 individuals) were returned from Bosso in Diffa region in Niger to Mallam Fatori in Abadam LGA in Nigeria on 31st of March (200) and 1st of April 2022 (300) in contravention of the binding frameworks. The BSG provided the returnees with one-off financial support, basic supply of staple food, temporary shelter, limited WASH infrastructure, and the deployment of the General Forces (GFs). According to UNHCR, there are currently still 186,772 Nigerian refugees living in Niger. The next group of 500 households is scheduled to be moved after Ramadan.
This Advocacy Note serves to elucidate the recent refugee return to Mallam Fatori and the accompanying protection concerns, based on information collected from protection partners as well as to provide recommendations that shall guide the humanitarian community’s principled actions in response to the returns to Mallam Fatori and other locations that are unfit for return.