IOM Assessment Team Finds Unaccompanied Child Returnees on Chad-Nigeria Border
GENEVA, Switzerland, February 29, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A joint IOM Chadian assessment team that travelled to a remote area on the Chad-Nigeria border has discovered a group of over 800 destitute Chadian returnees from Nigeria, including a large number of unaccompanied children aged between 6 and 14.
The assessment by IOM and the CNAR (National Agency for Refugees and IDPs), was undertaken at the request of the Chadian government following reports of Chadian nationals fleeing violence in Nigeria.
It found that many of the migrants in the village of Ngouboua, 30 km from the Nigerian border were children sent by their parents to Nigeria to study in Koranic schools. They were only accompanied by their Marabout religious teachers.
Others in the group, who were all in urgent need of food, water, medical care and transport to their homes, were Christian families who had gone to Nigeria to find work, according to the assessment team.
The migrants told the team that they had travelled across Lake Chad by boat from the Nigerian villages of Douri and Maday, which had been seriously affected by violent clashes between the extremist Boko Haram Islamic group and the Nigerian military.
The Nigerian immigration services reported on Monday that over the past six months they have repatriated some 11,000 "undesirable" foreigners, mainly from Chad and Niger.
Chad's Lac region where the returnees are sheltering has been experiencing food shortages for some time. The migrants are currently surviving on whatever food is given to them by the villagers. The team saw several children begging for food.
Some of the group are sleeping in makeshift huts. Others are living in the open with inadequate clothing to protect them from the cold at night.
According to medical staff in the assessment team, many of the children are also suffering from exhaustion and dehydration following a long journey and exposure to the elements.