More Malians fleeing to Mauritania and Burkina Faso

Briefing Notes, 2 March 2012

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 2 March 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Mauritania and Burkina Faso continue to receive large numbers of Malian refugees who say they are fleeing insecurity in their hometowns in northern Mali and the risk of further fighting between rebel Tuaregs and the Malian army which began in mid-January.

Refugees tell our staff that their main fear is of being caught up in the fighting. They are also concerned about bandits, who are taking advantage of the prevailing instability to loot homes and property.

According to Mauritanian government estimates, there are now over 31,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania, the majority of whom arrived in the past six weeks. Some 1,500 are arriving daily. In Burkina Faso, where 19,198 refugees have already been recorded by the authorities, an average of 500 Malians are crossing daily. Meanwhile, the number of people fleeing into Niger has subsided over the past week.

The overall number of people who have crossed from Mali into neighboring countries now stands at close to 80,000, according to government tallies. In addition, the number of internally displaced people within Mali has been revised upward to roughly the same amount, some 81,000, according to government officials and humanitarian organizations operating in northern Mali.

UNHCR has started to register refugees in all three asylum countries. This will allow us to refine population statistics and also provide us with a more detailed picture of the refugees and their needs. We are hoping to finish registration within the next few weeks.

Refugees are settling along the border in the arid regions of Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger where severe drought has produced acute food and water shortages in recent years. We are working with the government authorities and our humanitarian partners to address the needs of both the incoming refugees and the local population in all three countries. Despite their own difficulties, local residents have been sharing their meager resources with the new arrivals.

The coordinated aid effort includes trucking water into the stricken areas and distributing rice and other foodstuffs. We are also planning to relocate refugees to several camps that we are establishing in the region. In Mauritania, we have already transferred 8,300 particularly vulnerable men, women and children from the border crossing in the region of Fassala further inland to a camp called Mbera. Due to the harsh living conditions in border areas, a large number of refugees are now asking to be relocated to such camps.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Dakar (Regional): Helene Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91

In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483

Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 9138




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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

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