The Nigerian Refugee Crisis Nobody Is Talking About

November 27th 2016

Tricia Tongco

While the Syrian refugee crisis was in the spotlight during the presidential election, another group of displaced people have been overlooked.


A photo posted by UNICEF (@unicef) on

Roughly 140,000 African refugees have fled to the remote town of Monguno to escape Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which is "responsible for dozens of massacres of civilians and the abduction of more than 500 women and girls in its five-year insurgency in Nigeria," according to The New York Times.

According to Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian, the displacement crisis in North-east Nigeria is more severe than any migration influx Europe has experienced in recent years. He wrote:

"About 40% more people have been displaced throughout Borno state [in north-eastern Nigeria] (1.4 million) than reached Europe by boat in 2015 (1 million). Across the region, the war against Boko Haram has forced more people from their homes – 2.6 million – than there are Syrians in Turkey, the country that hosts more refugees than any other.

"The comparisons mirror a wider trend across Africa. Of the world’s 17 million displaced Africans, 93.7% remain inside the continent, and just 3.3% have reached Europe, according to UN data supplied privately to the Guardian."

In October, the UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, announced Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state is facing the world’s worst food crisis, due to being closed off from trade routes and the inability to plant food. UNICEF said in a statement that an "estimated quarter of a million children in Borno state, North-East Nigeria, face severe mal-nourishment and risk death” and "an estimated 49,000 children – almost 1 in 5 – will die if they are not reached with treatment."


A photo posted by UNICEF (@unicef) on

In an recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Mehdi Hasan, the host of Al Jazeera English's  “UpFront,” commented on the disproportionate response to Europe’s refugee influx compared to the crisis unfolding in Northeast Nigeria. 

The inconvenient truth is that while the U.K. Parliament votes to deny entry to 3,000 displaced children from Syria and the Hungarian prime minister vows to build a new and “more massive” border fence to keep out asylum-seekers, refugees in Africa are fleeing from one war-torn region to the next. From South Sudan to Darfur. Yes, to Darfur…

The UNHCR fundraises for a whole host of “special situations” involving refugees. As of the end of October, the “Central African Republic situation” was 17 percent funded; the “Somalia situation” 21 percent funded and the “South Sudan situation” 25 percent funded. The “crisis in Europe,” however? Fifty-six percent funded.

Hasan ended his piece by writing, "In what warped world are thousands of penniless and homeless refugees considered to constitute a crisis only when they wash up on the shores of western Europe?"

[h/t The Guardian]