UNHCR, governments to relocate thousands of Malian refugees from borders

Briefing Notes, 14 February 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 February 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania UNHCR is working with governments to relocate refugees fleeing Mali to safer locations away from border areas.

In northern Niger we have had reports of significant new arrivals over the weekend most from the Anderboukane and Menaka areas of Mali. UNHCR does not at this stage have confirmed numbers for overall arrivals from Mali into Niger, but from available estimates we know there are multiples of thousands. People are living in makeshift shelters, facing extremes of heat by day and cold at night. The health situation is relatively stable but there are incidences of malaria, eye infection, diarrhea and respiratory infection; In addition the sanitation and clean water situation is inadequate. UNHCR health experts are working with the Niger health authorities and medical agencies already on the ground to coordinate the response.

UNHCR is also working with the Niger government on plans to move the refugees to sites away from the volatile border. We have just identified a site to set up a camp near Ouallam town, 100 kilometres north of Niamey. The site will host refugees presently staying in Sinegodar and Mangaize, in Tillabery region. Some refugees have told us that they are reluctant to move since they hope to return home as soon as the security conditions permit them to.

Refugees we met told us that many people are now displaced at the Mali border areas and that they might cross over to Niger should the confrontation situation in Mali deteriorate.

In Burkina Faso, according to the authorities, 8,000 people have entered the country so far they are now mainly in the North. Many are women and children. They lack everything, in particular food, water and shelter. The government has asked UNHCR to help with the relocation of thousands of these refugees from spontaneous settlements in the north of the country, to two sites in Goudebo and Ingani, further away from the border.

In Mauritania over 13,000 people have arrived in the past two weeks an average of 1,000 a day. Refugees are living in makeshift shelters. A UNHCR site planner has arrived at the border today and is working with the Mauritanian authorities and local NGOs to prepare a camp in M'Bera, 50 kilometres from the border.

UNHCR staff are now on site in all three countries, and planning for registration is underway. Meanwhile, assistance is ongoing in all three countries. In Mauritania, UNHCR is mid-way through distributing a 15-day food ration, tents and non-food items to the refugees at the border town of Fassala. Several flights carrying tents and relief items arrived over the weekend at Nema airport.

For Niger and Burkina Faso, 2500 tents will be airlifted this week to Niger, from our stockpile in Douala, Cameroon; 500 will be delivered by road to Burkina Faso. Meanwhile, a convoy has left Accra, Ghana over the weekend with 40 metric tons of relief assistance for refugees in Niger and Burkina Faso.




UNHCR country pages

Mali Crisis: Urgent Appeal

More than 300,000 Malians have been forced to abandon homes in the hope of finding safety. Help us protect them.

Donate to this crisis

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

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Thousands of Malian families have arrived in Niger since mid-January, fleeing fighting between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces in northern Mali. Refugees are living in makeshift settlements along the border, exposed to the sun and wind by day, and cold at night. UNHCR has started distributing relief assistance and is planning to open camps in safer areas further away from the border. UNHCR's Helene Caux met with some the refugees who all expressed their desire to return to their country once peace prevails.

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Some 3,900 Malian refugees are living in Damba camp in northern Burkina Faso. They left their homes in Gossi and Gao in northern Mali to escape fighting between rebel Tuareg movement and the Malian army as well as threats posed by criminal gangs and Islamist groups. Several families have recently arrived in the camp, worried that an attack on Gao in June will spill over to other towns. Life is harsh in the camp and UNHCR urgently needs fresh funds to ensure life-saving assistance for this silent humanitarian crisis.

More than 380,000 Malians have been forced to flee their homes this year. Over 65,000 of them have found refuge in Burkina Faso. And this comes at a time when the countries in the Sahel region are suffering from drought and food shortfalls.

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Alternatives to Camps in NigerPlay video

Alternatives to Camps in Niger

Niger: Flight from Nigeria
Play video

Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.
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.