More than 36,000 refugees flee to Niger this year: UN
People sit next to a tent at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Ouallam, Niger, on May 3, 2022. (Issouf SANOGO / AFP)
(AFP) - More than 36,000 new refugees arrived in Niger between January and mid-April following violence in Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, bringing their numbers to around 360,000, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday.
The High Commissioner for Refugees "is concerned by these rising numbers as attacks on civilians prompting displacement increase in both frequency and violence," the UNHCR said.
"I'm afraid that we will be getting regular influxes into Niger for as long as there is trouble in the countries surrounding us," it quoted Emmanuel Gignac, the UNHCR’s representative in Niger, as saying.
The new arrivals from Mali are fleeing clashes between the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the Touarag Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) in the northern areas of Gao and Menaka, the UNHCR said.
"Nigerian refugees are fleeing increased looting, expropriation of property, assault and kidnapping by armed bandits in the states of Katsina and Sokoto, in the northwest of their country, while displacement from Burkina Faso is caused by ongoing and spreading insecurity," it said.
"The refugees, who are mostly women and children, need shelter, food and water, non-food items and access to basic services such as healthcare and education," the agency said.
"The fact that they are arriving and settling in some of Niger’s driest areas makes their situation even more precarious," it said.
"Food prices have risen dramatically in Niger and the ongoing food security crisis triggered by a poor 2021 farming season is putting further at risk already vulnerable refugees and local communities alike."
Some 580,000 forcibly displaced people, including 360,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, live in Niger.
Niger, especially its western part, is suffering from a grave food crisis caused by drought and jihadist violence that has prevented peasants from cultivating their fields, according to the UN and the Nigerien authorities.
The unstable regions of Tahou and Tillaberi -- in the tri-border region between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger -- have since 2017 seen deadly attacks linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which is also very active in Mali et au Burkina Faso.
The southeast of Niger, especially the Diffa border region with Nigeria, is prey to attacks from the Nigerian jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).
During a visit Tuesday and Wednesday to Niger and Nigeria, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres promised refugees and the internally displaced of both countries that they could count on him to lobby for increased international aid.
© Agence France-Presse