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Violence in northwest Nigeria has forced about 23,000 refugees to flee to Niger since April and raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The numbers fleeing to neighbouring Niger have almost tripled from last year when the agency reported the first influx of 20,000 people following an insurgency and banditry in northern Nigeria which killed hundreds and displaced thousands.
The latest influx of mostly women and children came after attacks by gunmen in Nigeria's Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during April.
The deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Katsina State, the agency said, prompting air strikes by Nigerian security forces already stretched tackling a decade-long insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast.
"We are working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 7,000 refugees to safety … where water, food, shelter, access to health and other essential assistance can be provided," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told a media briefing.
"Discussions are also ongoing with the authorities to recognize on a prima facie basis the refugees fleeing Nigeria and arriving in the region," he said.