Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Senegal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Senegal , 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nearly 10,000 Senegalese were refugees at the end of 1998, including some 5,000 in Guinea-Bissau and up to 5,000 in Gambia. An estimated 10,000 Senegalese were internally displaced.

Senegal hosted an estimated 30,000 refugees at the end of 1998, including about 25,000 from Mauritania, and some 5,000 from Guinea Bissau.

Uprooted Senegalese

Armed conflict continued to force residents from their homes in southern Senegal's Casamance Province during the year.

Insurgents advocating the separation of Casamance from the rest of Senegal have engaged in armed attacks and ambushes since 1991, provoking strong countermeasures by the Senegalese military. The civilian population has suffered abuse by both sides, human rights workers reported.

Violence appeared to increase during 1998. Insurgent attacks caused nearly 2,000 Senegalese to flee to Gambia in late 1997 and early 1998. Some of the refugees rapidly returned home when violence subsided. New attacks in May reportedly pushed another 2,000 to 5,000 refugees into Gambia; many repatriated when the violence again calmed.

Senegalese authorities have long suspected insurgents of hiding in refugee camps in neighboring Guinea-Bissau. The Senegalese government closed its border with Guinea-Bissau during the year and intensified military patrols along the border – actions that restricted the movement of Senegalese refugees between their country and Guinea-Bissau.

Local Red Cross workers distributed food and medical supplies to internally displaced persons and other victims of the violence in Casamance Province. Insurgents mounted renewed attacks late in the year, targeting civilians who allegedly cooperated with the government army.

Refugees from Mauritania

Most of the estimated 25,000 Mauritanian refugees in Senegal were expelled from their homes in 1989-90 by Mauritanian authorities who claimed the refugees were Senegalese nationals rather han Mauritanian citizens.

A June 1995 census estimated that about 65,000 Mauritanian refugees were then in Senegal. Spontaneous repatriation has since reduced that number by more than half. About 5,000 refugees officially repatriated during 1997; some 6,000 officially repatriated from Senegal in 1998. Others are believed to have repatriated spontaneously during 1998 and were not counted in official repatriation numbers.

Most remaining refugees have settled at more than 200 sites stretching approximately 600 kms (nearly 400 miles) along the Senegal River, which forms the border with Mauritania. Several thousand refugees have reportedly migrated to other parts of Senegal.

Food assistance to the refugees ended in early 1996. Refugees continued to complain during 1998 that UNHCR's suspension of aid was an attempt to force their repatriation to Mauritania. Refugee leaders urged a resumption of assistance.

UNHCR and Senegalese officials worked to integrate Mauritanian refugee children into the local Senegalese school system during the year. The government assigned teachers for refugee students. UNHCR reported that virtually all refugee students were integrated by October, supported by donations of desks, textbooks, and other school supplies.

Violent clashes between the refugees and the local Senegalese population in early 1998 left four refugees and three local residents dead. The violence occurred nearly 400 miles east of Dakar when residents attacked a group of Mauritanian refugees suspected of stealing; some refugees retaliated by attacking a local bus. Local residents threatened to chase all refugees from the area before order was eventually restored.

Many Mauritanian refugees have indicated that they wish to remain permanently in Senegal because of their ethnic, family, and economic ties to the area.

Refugees from Guinea-Bissau

Up to 5,000 refugees fled to Senegal during 1998 to escape an outbreak of violence in neighboring Guinea-Bissau.

Many arrived in the capital, Dakar, aboard boats. In November, Senegalese officials initially blocked entry in November to a ship containing 165 people, many of them refugees from Guinea-Bissau. Authorities belatedly allowed the ship to dock after a woman passenger died aboard the boat.

Although Senegalese authorities officially closed the border, additional refugees managed to cross into Senegal by foot. Officials allowed some refugees to cross the closed border "for humanitarian reasons." Heavy military activity and landmines along Senegal's border with Guinea-Bissau made travel difficult for Guinean refugees seeking entry.

Authorities attempted to vaccinate most new arrivals from Guinea Bissau against yellow fever and meningitis. Buses transported the new refugees to towns where local residents provided housing. Up to 700 who arrived by sea received shelter at an airport hangar in Dakar.

As the year ended, refugees resided primarily in four zones: in Casamance Province, in Dakar, in Tambacounda Region of east-central Senegal, and in a temporary center at Thies, 100 km (60 miles) east of Dakar.

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