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Nigeria camp closure raises concern over conflict returns

Northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State government has begun the closure of one of the last remaining displacement camps in Maiduguri, the region’s capital, as part of its policy to send people back to their areas of origin.

The Borno government has allocated nearly $650,000 for the resettlement of 12,985 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the first phase of the eventual closure of Muna – one of the largest IDP camps in the city – with a population of 50,000. Families will be given $66 and some essential household items to restart their lives in their home areas.

More than 800,000 people in Borno have been uprooted by 15 years of jihadist violence, the bulk of them settling in Maiduguri. By early 2023, the state had closed all its formal camps in the city and begun shuttering the informal settlements like Muna.

Since 2021, the state government has relocated more than 200,000 IDPs to their areas of origin – a controversial policy as insecurity in northern Borno has continued. In March 2024, nearly 319 women who had been resettled were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen.

The removals policy has also been reinforced by the UN’s World Food Programme, which has ended food supplies to the camps, leaving IDPs little choice but to move.

The insecurity in Borno, compounded by severe food shortages due to drought, is intensifying the humanitarian crisis in the region. According to the UN’s emergency aid coordination office, OCHA, about 4.8 million people in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (the so-called BAY states) are facing severe hunger, and 2.8 million require humanitarian assistance.

For more context on how the conflict in northeast Nigeria is causing a cycle of displacement, read:

Internally displaced people gather to fill their buckets at the water point in Muna Garage IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria October 23, 2022.

In northeast Nigeria, those who fled conflict are being returned to conflict

The Borno resettlement programme has been criticised for using vulnerable displaced people as a means to achieve counter-insurgency goals.

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