, LAGOS, Feb 27 – Nigeria has repatriated around 5,000 foreigners mainly from Niger and Chad over the past six months to curb a growing Islamist insurgency, the immigration services said on Monday.
“We have repatriated some 5,000 foreigners, including those who have been refused entry into the country,” immigration services spokesman Joachim Olumba told AFP.
An extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has been blamed for attacks claiming hundreds of lives and has intensified its violent campaigns in recent months.
The deadly gun and bomb attacks have shaken Africa’s most populous country which is almost evenly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
There have been suggestions that the sect draws some of its members from neighbouring countries.
Olumba said the repatriation “has been intensified in the past six months following the Boko Haram insurgency,” adding: “We have an obligation to rid the country of undesirable elements.”
He said immigration officers last week caught 120 people trying to enter illegally from Niger “and we quickly sent them back to their country.”
Violence blamed on Boko Haram, whose specific aims remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including over 300 this year alone.
The sect has previously said it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s deeply impoverished north.
Nigeria’s military authorities last week said Boko Haram has ties with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).