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Final phase of organized repatriation from Senegal to Mauritania begins

Briefing Notes, 23 October 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 23 October 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This week we began the final stage of the organized voluntary repatriation of Mauritanian refugees from Senegal. By the end of December, 5,000 to 7,000 refugees are expected to return. The end of this repatriation will mark the conclusion of a UNHCR operation that began in 1989.

The 2009 repatriation began in January but was suspended from 20 July until 19 October because of the rainy season. Prior to the resumption, 14,147 Mauritanian refugees comprising 3,634 families had returned from Senegal to Mauritania's Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol, Guidimakha and Assaba regions.

The repatriation follows a call by Mauritanian authorities in 2007 for their citizens to come home, two decades after they fled to Senegal to escape clashes between Negro-African and Moorish communities in Mauritania.

Strong support is needed for them to rebuild their lives. The Mauritanian national refugee organization Agence Nationale d'Appui à la Réintégration des Réfugiés, UNHCR and its partners are assisting in the reintegration process with a variety of programmes: allocating farm land, providing Arabic and French language courses; doing medical screening of the returnees; supplying water; distributing farming supplies; setting up cooperatives; and implementing food-for-work projects,

More challenges must still be addressed before returnees enjoy the same conditions as other Mauritanian citizens, including deficiencies in health, education, water, and food security. To ensure the repatriation is sustainable and that returnees become self-sufficient, UNHCR and its partners, including all UN agencies, will continue to implement income-generating activities and monitor returnees in 2010.

In addition, an estimated 12,000 Mauritanian refugees were identified in a recent census to profile Mauritanian refugees in Mali. Out of those, an estimated 8,000 may wish to return, however the modalities for their repatriation have not yet been agreed between the Mauritanian and Malian governments. UNHCR believes assisted repatriation of that last group of refugees could begin in 2010.

The budget for the return and reintegration of Mauritanian refugees in the first half of 2009 was USD 8,980,000, of which $6,943,361 was for activities in Mauritania and $2,036,639 was for activities in Senegal and Mali. UNHCR is revising the Supplementary Budget to reflect the additional requirement of approximately $1,760,204 for activities through the rest of the year.




UNHCR country pages


UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

UNHCR Mauritania Fact Sheet

(French only, available on UNHCR's French website)

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

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks met with Malian refugees in Damba Camp on July 6, 2012, in northern Burkina Faso. The acclaimed soprano is using the visit to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict in their country this year and are living in camps or settlements in neighbouring countries. As of early July, more than 198,000 Malians had fled to Mauritania (88,825), Burkina Faso (65,009) and Niger (44,987). At least 160,000 were estimated to be displaced within Mali, most in the north.

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania Play video

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania

Hundreds of Malian refugees voted in exile at the weekend in the presidential election in their home country, way down on the numbers eligible to cast a ballot.
Mauritania: Learning in the DesertPlay video

Mauritania: Learning in the Desert

UNHCR works to give children access to education while they are living in exile.
Mauritania: Growing NumbersPlay video

Mauritania: Growing Numbers

In the last six months, thousands of Malians have come to Mbera refugee camp seeking safety. UNHCR is coordinating water, food and health services with the help of partner agencies.