United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Niger, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bb20.html [accessed 4 December 2016]
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About 10,000 Nigeriens were refugees in Algeria at the end of 1997. Niger hosted about 7,000 refugees at year's end, including an estimated 6,000 from Mali and about 1,000 from Chad. Estimates of the number of Malian refugees who repatriated from Niger in 1997 varied greatly, from about 1,000 to nearly 10,000. Refugees from Niger Most Nigerien refugees were ethnic Tuaregs, predominantly nomads, who fled government crackdowns in recent years against a Tuareg insurgency in northern Niger. A peace agreement between the Niger government and Tuareg insurgents in 1995 brought relative calm to the affected area of Niger. Niger signed agreements with Algeria and Burkina Faso in 1996 to lay the groundwork for the eventual return of Nigerien refugees. The main obstacle to repatriation in 1996, according to UN officials, was a need to identify and prepare returnee sites in Niger. In May 1997, UNHCR appealed for more than $17 million to fund repatriation and reintegration programs for Nigerien and Malian refugees. The appeal netted less then $10 million by year's end, however. About 400 Nigerien refugees repatriated from Burkina Faso under UNHCR auspices in 1997, settling at three rural sites, UNHCR reported. UNHCR recorded no spontaneous repatriation of Nigerien refugees during the year. Returnees were confronted with the harshness of Niger's desert environment, and returned to a land of limited economic potential, observers warned. Returnees received half of a six-month food assistance package in Burkina Faso, prior to return. Returnees also received household items, UNHCR said, and benefitted from newly constructed wells, schools, and clinics. Refugees from Mali Malian refugees fled to Niger in 1994 because of hostilities between Mali's government and its Tuareg and Arab populations. Most Malian refugees lived in western Niger, near the border with Mali, where they received assistance in health, sanitation, education, agriculture, and livestock. A peace agreement in Mali has encouraged some refugees to repatriate. An estimated 5,000 or more refugees returned to Mali from Niger in 1995-96, without international assistance. UNHCR began an assisted repatriation program from Niger in 1997, facilitating or organizing the return to Mali of about 1,000 refugees in July and August. Participants in the repatriation program received a reintegration package before departing Niger that included food assistance and household items. Those who repatriated under UNHCR's program in 1997 were largely urban refugees, UNHCR said. UNHCR reported that it implemented additional assistance programs for rural refugees who remained in Niger, including providing a three-month food supplement consisting of cereals, oil, and proteins. UNHCR's office in Niger reported that nearly 9,000 Malian refugees may have repatriated spontaneously from Niger during 1997. UNHCR estimated the number of Malian refugees remaining in Niger at year's end at between 5,500 and 7,000, based largely on the reports of spontaneous repatriation to Mali. Refugees from Chad Repatriation to Chad during 1997 reduced the number of Chadian refugees remaining in Niger to fewer than 1,000 at year's end, UNHCR reported. Most Chadian refugees arrived in the early 1990s, fleeing armed violence and human rights abuses in their country. The majority were transferred in 1993-94 to the town of GourÉ, 300 km from Niger's border with Chad. Chadian refugees remaining in Niger at year's end continued to live at GourÉ.