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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - West Africa

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 West Africa subregional operations map

Parts of West Africa remain affected by insecurity, including food insecurity in the Sahel and political crises. Elections are scheduled for 2015 in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. UNHCR has developed several contingency plans with countries likely to see an influx of people if there are any instances of post-election upheaval. At regional level, and within the framework of emergency preparedness and emergency response, UNHCR has also developed a task force to monitor and report threat levels.

In Mali in 2014, presidential elections and some improvements in the security situation in the north, led more Malian refugees to request assistance to return home. However, as the security situation in some areas of origin remains unpredictable, most refugees have not yet returned. UNHCR will, in consultation with host countries and Malian authorities, provide refugees with information both on the situation in areas of origin and on ongoing activities aimed at improving conditions. It will also work with partners to ensure that those who have returned are integrated into support structures. While more than 12,900 refugees have been assisted to return in 2014, it is expected that another 42,000 will return home in 2015, along with an estimated 74,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

Violent clashes between government forces and armed groups in the north of Nigeria have triggered large waves of displacement. More than half a million civilians have been internally displaced, while others have sought safety in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The humanitarian crisis resulting from this internal conflict shows no sign of abating in 2015. UNHCR and partner agencies have stepped up responses to the Nigeria refugee crises in the neighbouring countries already in 2014, which need to be sustained into 2015. UNHCR has also taken measures to strengthen its collaboration in the protection of IDPs inside Nigeria, under the leadership of the recently appointed Humanitarian Coordinator.

Beyond political and security challenges, food insecurity continues in the Sahel. UNHCR will support refugees and IDPs by providing more agricultural tools while working to find alternative solutions for refugees in protracted situations.

Meanwhile, the spread of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, has already killed 3,000 people. The outbreak is having dramatic consequences on social and economic activities in West Africa, and some borders have been closed. Many farmers no longer tend their fields in affected areas, where prices have soared. Furthermore, Ebola is affecting UNHCR's refugee operations, including the suspension since July 2014 of Ivorian refugee returns from Liberia. The organization has maintained its presence in the three most affected countries but has suspended non-essential missions within and to affected countries. Quarantine measures, particularly in Liberia and Guinea, prevent refugees from leaving the camps in search of livelihood activities to complement the limited food basket, making them more dependent on assistance. In this situation, adequate food supplies will be critical for preventing and combating malnutrition.

UNHCR continues to implement its regional solutions strategies for protracted refugee populations, in close collaboration with host governments. It will, as a sub-regional priority, advocate an alternative residence status for long-staying refugees.

| Response and implementation |

UNHCR's operations in Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Niger are covered in separate chapters.

Regionally, UNHCR will continue to oversee and to provide protection guidance and programme support to nine West African operations that host more than 150,000 refugees through its Regional Office for West Africa. It will ensure the coordination, policy, oversight and technical support for operations in Benin, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. In addition, UNHCR's Regional Representation for West Africa will coordinate the regional response to emergencies in Mali and Nigeria. The Regional Representation will also continue to assume a wider coordination function for Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Niger.

In Benin, 219 refugees, mainly from the Central African Republic and Côte d'Ivoire, will require UNHCR's protection in 2015. The Government's commitment to finding a definitive solution to long-staying refugees means the number of refugees in Benin has drastically decreased. Since January 2013, a strategy focusing on local integration was developed and implemented with UNHCR support. Refugees wishing to stay in the country were granted 10 years legal residence and issued with documentation that allowed them to integrate locally.

In Burkina Faso, UNHCR will continue to provide protection and multi-sectoral assistance to, and promote the self-reliance of, refugees. Conditions permitting, the organization will support Malian refugees in Burkina Faso willing to return home and use resettlement as both a protection tool and durable solution for the most vulnerable. UNHCR will ensure delivery of health services in refugee camps, strengthening reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and health referrals. The organization aims to ensure that at least 5,000 refugee children are enrolled in quality primary education in 2015. The construction of durable transitional shelters and the distribution of shelter materials and tool kits will also be a UNHCR priority in Burkina Faso.

In the Gambia, most refugees are Senegalese. More than 8,000 of them live in the rural areas in more than 50 host villages in Foni, along the Gambia's border with Senegal. Some 1,200 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone live in the Greater Banjul area. In 2015, as part of its comprehensive solutions strategy for Senegalese refugees, UNHCR will look to naturalization and alternative status for the refugees, while continuing to explore practical ways of empowering the refugees through the promotion of self-reliance activities.

In 2015, UNHCR will protect and assist more than 14,000 refugees, mainly Ivorians and Togolese, in Ghana. UNHCR will promote self-reliance through skills training and income-generation activities to help transition families from assistance to self-sustenance. The joint UN strategy - coordinated between UNHCR and WFP - envisages a phase-out of food assistance for the in-camp population by March 2015. An estimated 2,000 asylum-seekers are expected in Ghana in 2015, mainly from Côte d'Ivoire. Around 2,000 Togolese refugees opted to locally integrate in Ghana and negotiations are ongoing to provide them with legal residence.

In Guinea, an estimated 6,600 refugees will continue to need international protection and UNHCR will support the repatriation of Ivorians wishing to do so.

Guinea-Bissau will continue hosting more than 8,400 Senegalese refugees living in rural areas. Negotiations with the Government are ongoing to facilitate local integration through an alternative legal status or naturalization. UNHCR, with government support, has developed a road map to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive solutions strategy for Senegalese refugees in the country.

In 2015, the Office in Nigeria will be responding to the protection needs of some 1,700 recognized refugees. UNHCR will in addition pursue the repatriation of the Cameroonian refugees. It will strengthen its presence and capacity in the country and will monitor protection needs, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, national NGOs and civil society. UNHCR will also build the capacity of state agencies by promoting training on basic principles of protection and camp coordination and camp management. The organization, together with partners, will support the authorities in the implementation of the Kampala Convention, strengthening their capacity in protection monitoring and response.

At least 15,800 refugees live in Senegal, more than 13,500 of whom are Mauritanian. Refugee identity cards issued by the Government of Senegal allow them to enjoy social and economic rights. In the absence of repatriation opportunities, UNHCR will continue to strengthen the local integration process in 2015.

Sierra Leone hosts approximately 690 Liberian refugees. A group of around 270 Liberians, whose nationality was not confirmed during the cessation process, will remain of concern to UNHCR in 2015 and alternative solutions for them will be explored.

Togo hosts more than 2,800 refugees and 420 asylum-seekers, who live in urban areas. Among the urban refugee population, 85 per cent are Ivorians and most live in Avépozo refugee camp. Many Ivorian refugees are expected to repatriate in 2015. Ghanaians who arrived after 2010 will continue receiving protection and assistance and UNHCR will pursue a durable solutions strategy for long-stay Ghanaian refugees in northern Togo.

| Financial information |

While the revised 2014 financial requirements for West Africa amounted to USD 265.1 million, the subregional budget for 2015 is set at USD 233.5 million. Since 2011, UNHCR has observed an increase in population movements in this subregion that has been affected by several emergencies.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for West Africa (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 265,071,891 198,705,603 5,547,898 18,671,616 10,533,984 233,459,101
1. Includes activities in Benin, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Burkina Faso 25,708,635 20,167,209 0 0 0 20,167,209
Côte d'Ivoire 27,337,841 14,533,233 3,599,304 7,917,216 0 26,049,754
Ghana 11,137,473 10,693,861 0 0 0 10,693,861
Guinea 4,874,471 5,378,500 0 0 0 5,378,500
Liberia 35,328,663 25,278,092 0 0 0 25,278,092
Mali 69,589,103 48,598,107 0 10,754,399 8,058,010 67,410,517
Niger 41,657,211 31,526,607 0 0 0 31,526,607
Senegal Regional Office[1] 49,438,494 42,529,993 1,948,594 0 2,475,974 46,954,560

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Nigeria [1]
Refugees [2] 1,279
Asylum Seekers [3] 909
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 1,385,298
Returned IDPs [6] 122,719
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 1,510,205
Originating from Nigeria [1]
Refugees [2] 120,303
Asylum Seekers [3] 40,640
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 1,385,298
Returned IDPs [6] 122,719
Various [8] 13
Total Population of Concern 1,668,973
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
More info 63,735
As at 15 January 2015
2013 63,735
2012 63,735
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 75,950
2004 0
2003 0
2002 37,975
More info 139,744
USD 139,744 of which 40,851 (29%) unrestricted and 98,893 (71%) earmarked.
2000 93,897

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Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

One year after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, violence continues to displace people within Nigeria and to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, including some 22,000 Nigerian refugees. Civilians trapped at home face recurrent attacks by insurgents, with a series of kidnappings and killings culminating in mid-April this year in the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno.

UNHCR's Hélène Caux recently travelled to the region to meet with some of the 250,000 internally displaced, including students caught up in the violence. Those she spoke to told her about their fears, and the atrocities and suffering they had endured or witnessed. People spoke about their homes and fields being destroyed, grenade attacks on markets, the killing of friends and relatives, and arbitrary arrests. Uniting them is an overwhelming sense of terror. Caux found it a challenge to photograph people who live in constant fear of being attacked. "It was this delicate balance to try to achieve between featuring them, communicating their stories and protecting them," she said.

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

Nigeria: Back to schoolPlay video

Nigeria: Back to school

When gun-toting Boko Haram insurgents attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria, thousands of children fled to safety. They now have years of lessons to catch up on as they return to schools, some of which now double as camps for internally displaced people or remain scarred by bullets.

Nigeria: Homeless in their own countryPlay video

Nigeria: Homeless in their own country

Boko Haram's bloody insurgency made at least two million Nigerians homeless in their own country. As large swathes of the northeast remain no-go areas, UNHCR and other partners are providing vital aid, including bedding and cooking utensils to those driven into internal exile.

Cameroon: Escape from NigeriaPlay video

Cameroon: Escape from Nigeria

Attacks by Nigerian insurgents have spread to neighbouring countries in recent months, severely restricting the 'humanitarian space' aid organisations, like UNHCR, can operate in to help people made homeless by the unrest. The insurgents have also recently mounted a series of suicide attacks in Cameroon - the first such attacks in the country.

Italy: Syrian Family's New HopePlay video

Italy: Syrian Family's New Hope

An Italian rescue vessel saved some 450 people from the Mediterranean Sea. The boat they were on had set out from Egypt and the passengers included a Syrian family risking all after fleeing the war in their country.

Mediterranean Drownings: The High Commissioner's CommentsPlay video

Mediterranean Drownings: The High Commissioner's Comments

The High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed shock at news from the Mediterranean that hundreds of people were missing after their boat sank and called anew for urgent action to prevent such tragedies in the future.

The latest incident involves the capsizing of a double-deck boat on Monday in waters about 120 kilometers south of Italy's Lampedusa Island.

Italy: New Arrivals in LampedusaPlay video

Italy: New Arrivals in Lampedusa

The influx of refugees and migrants into Italy continues with new boats arriving on daily basis. In the last two weeks, over 13,000 people have been rescued at sea. Early on Friday morning, a dinghy carrying 60-70 people from sub-Saharan Africa was rescued by an Italian boat and taken to the island of Lampedusa.

Nigeria Refugee Crisis - A Journey of SurvivalPlay video

Nigeria Refugee Crisis - A Journey of Survival

Today, United Nations Agencies and non-governmental organizations are launching the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for Nigerian refugees. This appeal is urgently seeking USD 174.4 million to protect and assist some 192,000 people who have fled brutal attacks by insurgents in north-eastern Nigeria. The plan also foresees to respond to any additional population movements to the neighbouring countries.

The appeal is seeking funds to provide life-saving assistance to at least 74,000 Nigerians who have found refuge in northern Cameroon, to 18,000 in south-west Chad and to some 100,000 people - a mix of Nigerian refugees and returning Niger nationals - in Niger.

Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian RefugeesPlay video

Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian Refugees

In Minawao camp, Cameroon, Nigerian refugees get a chance to tell their stories to High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres during his visit.

Chad: A Nigerian Child AlonePlay video

Chad: A Nigerian Child Alone

Thousands of refugees have fled militant attacks in Nigeria and sought safety in Chad. They include at least 100 children who have been provided shelter by other families.

Chad: Refugees from NigeriaPlay video

Chad: Refugees from Nigeria

In recent weeks, thousands have been forced to flee northern Nigeria after militants attacked their villages, crossing Lake Chad in packed boats and seeking safety at the Dar-es-Salam refugee site in Chad.

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.

Tunisia: Dashed HopesPlay video

Tunisia: Dashed Hopes

Victor left Nigeria 10 years ago in search of a better life and ended up in Libya. In escaping the violence there, he has lost everything he worked for.