Returning Nigerian refugees could create new crisis as rainy season starts: UNHCR

A member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) screening women at the entrance of the town as thousands of Nigerians are returning to their homes in Damasak, in this April file photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2017

Returning Nigerian refugees could create new crisis as rainy season starts: UNHCR

GENEVA: Nigerian refugees who fled militants are returning from Cameroon into a country that is still not equipped to support them, and they risk creating a new humanitarian crisis, the head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said on Wednesday.
The UNHCR issued a similar warning last month when about 12,000 refugees returned to the border town of Banki in Borno state, which was already housing 45,000 displaced Nigerians.
Another 889 refugees, mostly children, arrived in Banki on June 17 from Minawao camp in Cameroon, Grandi said.
“The new arrivals — and we hear reports of more refugees seeking to return — put a strain on the few existing services, he said in a statement. “A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs.”
“It is my firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time.”
Banki, once a thriving town, was razed to the ground by the time the Nigerian army retook it from Boko Haram insurgents in September 2015.
Grandi said the severely overcrowded town could not provide adequate shelter or aid and its water supply and sanitation were “wholly inadequate,” creating the risk of disease.
Although Boko Haram attacks have been fewer in recent months, more people are on the move and there are 1.9 million Nigerians displaced across the northeast, the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report last week.
“Insecurity persists in parts of Northeast Nigeria, disrupting food supplies, seriously hindering access to basic services, and limiting agricultural activities, worsening an already dire food security situation,” it said.
More than 5 million people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in northeastern Nigeria have no secure food supply, WFP said.


Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.

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