A recent spike in violence in parts of northwest Nigeria has forced an estimated 20,000 people to seek safety and security in Niger since April,according the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
UNHCR said it is "concerned about deteriorating security inside Nigeria, and is working closely with authorities in Niger to provide basic assistance and register the new arrivals." It said more than 18,000 people have already gone through the initial registration process so far.
Violence between ethnic groups
In a statement, UNHCR said the latest upsurge in violence is not linked to Boko Haram but to clashes between farmers and herders of different ethnic groups and kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria's Sokoto and Zamfara states.
The UN refugee agency said people who left Nigeria, and arrived in Niger's Maradi region, witnessed extreme violence unleashed against civilians, including machete attacks, kidnappings and sexual violence. Women and children make up the majority of the new arrivals.
UNHCR said the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency has already spilled over into Niger, where it has affected its Diffa region since 2015. The region currently hosts almost 250,000 displaced people, including refugees from Nigeria and internally displaced people.
UNHCR says Niger a model of security for refugees
UNHCR said Niger continues to be a leading regional example in providing safety to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in many countries. It has kept its borders open for refugees despite the ongoing violence in several regions bordering Nigeria, Mali and recently Burkina Faso.
Since the beginning of 2018, violence within the Diffa region perpetrated by elements of Boko Haram has also significantly escalated with a record number of civilian casualties and unprecedented secondary movements within the region.
Niger is currently hosting over 380,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Mali and Nigeria as well as its own internally displaced population. The country has also provided refuge to some 2,782 asylum seekers airlifted out of Libya due to fighting.