New Malian refugee influx into northern Niger

Briefing Notes, 5 April 2013

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 5 April 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

5,592 Malian refugees crossed into Niger last week. The refugees, mainly women and children, are from the regions of Kidal and Menaka and travelled by foot or on donkeys.

They say they fled because of the ongoing war in northern Mali, and for fear of possible reprisals by the Malian army. The also said that more people are on their way to Niger.

The refugees began arriving on March 28 and are staying at Mentes and Midal, in a remote desert area of northern Niger. Mentes is located at about 922 km from Niamey and 422 km from Tahoua where UNHCR is looking after 17,000 other Malian refugees. It takes a six hour-drive across desert to reach the area from Tahoua.

Reception conditions are very precarious. The only available water which contains clay is drawn from pools. No health facilities are available. We are planning to relocate these refugees to Midal where we can better assist them and where there is a functioning well.

Joint and separate missions with local authorities and our partner agency WFP have been organized to register new arrivals and distribute food and non-food items. 2,402 individuals who arrived before 28 March have already received aid while the rest will receive aid during the next round of distribution

We are at present in the process of re-deploying staff and resources to this area, which had previously been without a refugee influx. Distributions of food and non-food assistance will continue. In addition, needs assessments and surveys are being organized to ascertain other needs.

There are an estimated 175,076 Malian refugees in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and, Niger. This includes 37,530 people who fled since January. Among reported reasons for flight are insecurity, and confiscation of goods, plus fear of arbitrary arrests or detention and other human rights violations.

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