Nigeria forcibly resettles refugees to allow schools to open

AP News
Posted: Feb 24, 2016 12:17 PM

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's government is forcibly resettling hundreds of people who lost their homes to Boko Haram's carnage, some to a refugee camp where the extremists recently killed dozens, even though U.N. officers urged it to consider the security fears of already traumatized people.

Some people wailed that they were being sent to their deaths.

"They attacked and forced us ... even humiliating us," said Ilya Ibrahim, a 39-year-old father of three, of the removals carried out by emergency management officials under the guard of the military.

People were ordered onto trucks as armed soldiers stood by Monday in northeastern Maiduguri, birthplace of Boko Haram and a city of 1 million overrun by more than 1 million refugees.

Security forces were brought in after attempts to move the refugees voluntarily last week failed. Some refugees were manhandled and camp managers locked gates to prevent the departure of some who had packed their belongings and wanted to find other accommodation in the city.

President Muhammadu Buhari insisted Monday that his administration is giving "the highest priority" to resettling some of the 2.5 million people forced from their homes in the 6-year-old uprising that has killed about 20,000.

Officials announced months ago that people must move from schools occupied by refugees for nearly two years so that classes can resume.

"I think it is very, very important, obviously key, to get children back to school," Volker Turk, the top protection official at the U.N. Refugee Agency, said in a phone interview Wednesday after visiting camps in Maiduguri. "But in this whole attempt to get people into their home area or out of shelters, for us it is key that people are not pushed back to areas where they feel insecure."


Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Lagos, Nigeria.