Senegal: Voluntary repatriation of Mauritanian refugees

Briefing Notes, 14 March 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 March 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is picking up its repatriation operation from Senegal with a second convoy yesterday (Thursday) bringing home more than 250 Mauritanians. We plan to step up the pace of voluntary returns and organize bi-weekly convoys to reach a target of 3,000 returns per month.

On Thursday, 257 Mauritanian refugees from 61 families were transported from four refugee sites on the southern bank of the Senegal River, which they crossed by boat before reaching the Mauritanian town of Rosso. Upon arrival, and after completing administrative formalities, they were taken back to three locations in the neighbourhood of Rosso-Mauritania.

The next two convoys are expected to take place next Tuesday, with some 438 returnees, and on March 22.

Returnees benefit from an assistance package, including basic domestic items such as kitchen sets, blankets, buckets, mosquito nets, soap, as well as sanitary kits from UNHCR. Returnees are also given a three-month food ration from the World Food Programme. Each household also receives a tent as well as some construction material. In places of return, reintegration projects are being organized in the health, water and education sectors. UNHCR's partners are also undertaking the rehabilitation or rebuilding of infrastructure that will benefit both returnees and the local communities.

This second convoy follows the voluntary return of 103 Mauritanian refugees on January 29. In total, some 24,000 Mauritanian refugees live in northern Senegal, along the border with Mauritania, and could benefit from UNHCR's assistance to return to their home country before the end of the operation, planned for December 2008.

In April 1989, a long-standing border dispute between Mauritania and Senegal escalated into ethnic violence. Some 60,000 Mauritanians fled to Senegal and Mali.




UNHCR country pages

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

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Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

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