UNHCR wraps up Mali repatriation programme

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Judith Kumin to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR officially ended its operation in northern Mali at a ceremony in the Malian capital of Bamako on Friday, 25 June, when Africa director Albert-Alain Peters handed over a comprehensive report on the four-year programme to President Alpha Oumar Konaré. In his speech, President Konaré commended UNHCR for its accomplishments in northern Mali and expressed hope that other agencies would continue development work on behalf of communities in the area.

Almost all of the 305,000 Malians who became refugees or were displaced within the country following the tuareg rebellion in 1990 have returned to their homes. More than 130,000 were refugees and were helped by UNHCR to repatriate voluntarily, mainly from Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Niger. UNHCR spent nearly $240 million between 1995 and 1999 on the refugee programmes and to rehabilitate 638 returnee sites in the regions of Gao, Kidal, Mopti, Segou and Timbuktu in Mali.

The UNHCR office in Mali will now be reduced in size, but will continue to look after the welfare of around 2,000 urban refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Great Lakes region.