U.S. Committee for Refugees Mid-Year Country Report 2001 - Senegal
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 August 2001|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees Mid-Year Country Report 2001 - Senegal , 1 August 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c56c11610.html [accessed 24 May 2016]|
A low-level armed insurgency has continued sporadically in southern Senegal's Casamance Province for at least 10 years, periodically forcing thousands of Senegalese to flee their homes. The insurgents advocate independence or greater autonomy for Casamance Province. A negotiated cease-fire generally prevailed throughout 2000.
At the beginning of 2001, some 15,000 Senegalese remained uprooted from their homes because of previous violence. Two-thirds of the uprooted population lived as refugees in the neighboring countries of Guinea-Bissau and Gambia.
Recent Political/Military/Human Rights Developments
The Senegalese government and insurgent political leaders signed a peace agreement in March that pledged the safe return of all refugees, the mutual release of prisoners, clearance of landmines, and economic help to demobilized insurgent soldiers. Factions within the rebel movement opposed the accord, however, resulting in continued violence. Rebel factions fought each other and launched an offensive against government forces. Government troops from neighboring Guinea-Bissau also clashed with the insurgents, who have long used rear bases in Guinea-Bissau. Unconfirmed reports estimated that up to 200 persons have died since the upsurge in violence in May.
New Uprooted Populations
An estimated 3,000 or more Senegalese fled their homes during the first half of 2001 because of renewed fighting in Casamance Province. Many new refugees said they were fleeing from the Senegalese government's aerial bombing raids against rebel positions. Many new refugee arrivals in Gambia were women and children.
Senegal's violence affected Senegalese refugees already living in neighboring countries. In Guinea-Bissau, hundreds of Senegalese refugees who have long resided in border villages were forced from their homes by Guinean troops searching for Senegalese insurgents. In Gambia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees attempted to transfer 4,000 Senegalese refugees to safer locations farther from the border. Many refugees resisted the transfer because they preferred to remain in villages on the border or return to Senegal.
Despite continued insecurity in Casamance Province in mid-year, an estimated 2,000 refugees repatriated to Senegal in June and July because they disliked rules and conditions in the asylum countries. Some refugees repatriated from Guinea-Bissau after government soldiers there burned their homes. Guinean authorities charged that 50 to 100 Senegalese asylum seekers were rebel supporters and officially deported them. Some Senegalese refugees charged that they were expelled by the Gambian government, but UNHCR said the allegations were untrue.
Many of the 2,000 returnees to Senegal in mid-2001 found their houses damaged. The region's rainy season hampered reconstruction efforts. Officials expressed concern about food shortages in returnee areas.
In Gambia, the large influx of new Senegalese refugees strained local resources. New refugees typically sought food and shelter in Gambian border villages, rapidly depleting local food supplies. Many refugees sought temporary shelter under trees rather than transfer to an established refugee camp farther from the border. The refugees preferred to remain near the border so they could repatriate more easily.