Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Senegal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Senegal , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 19 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.

Senegal hosted some 23,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2003, including 20,000 from Mauritania.

About 13,000 Senegalese were refugees, including some 9,000 in Guinea-Bissau and about 4,000 in Gambia. An estimated 17,000 Senegalese were internally displaced.

An estimated 500 repatriated from Guinea-Bissau and Gambia.

Uprooted Senegalese

A low-level armed insurgency has continued sporadically in southern Senegal's Casamance region for 20 years, forcing thousands of Senegalese from their homes. Insurgent leaders have charged that the Casamance region is politically and economically marginalized and have demanded independence or greater political autonomy. A cease-fire negotiated in 1999 curtailed violence, and a peace agreement in 2001 pledged the safe return of all refugees, the release of prisoners, clearance of landmines, and economic support for demobilized combatants. Some rebel factions opposed the accord and renewed their attacks in mid-2001, temporarily pushing more than 10,000 new refugees into neighboring countries that year.

Forceful counterinsurgency measures by government troops in 2002 were followed by a lull in fighting during 2003 and hard-line insurgent leader Sidi Badji's died in May. Nevertheless, many refugees from the Casamance remained reluctant to return home during the year. Intermittent rebel attacks and Senegalese military reprisals caused the internal displacement of an estimated 17,000 Senegalese in 2003, mostly in Ziguinchor , the largest town in the Casamance, Bignona, and Oussouye area near the Senegal – Guinea-Bissau border. Many of the displaced took refuge with relatives, thus remaining less visible and quickly returned home during lulls in fighting.

Refugees from Mauritania

An estimated 20,000 refugees who had fled Mauritania more than ten years ago continued to live in Senegal during 2003. The Mauritanian government originally expelled the population between 1989 – 90, claiming they were Senegalese nationals rather than Mauritanian citizens. The exact number of Mauritanian refugees was uncertain because authorities have not conducted a formal census since 1995. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which maintained only limited contact with the refugee population, estimated that some 20,000 remained, but a Mauritanian exile group claimed nearly three times that number. Most remained at Ngaola, Antenne, and Diolly refugee settlements and at 200 other sites stretching approximately 400 miles (600 km) along the Senegal River, which forms the border with Mauritania. Since 1996, most have supported themselves with minimal help from UNHCR, but the agency gave some refugees modest health care, education, and potable drinking water.

In 2000, the Senegalese government abruptly halted efforts to register Mauritanian refugees and abandoned plans to provide them with identity cards. The registration process remained stalled in 2003. Some 500 Mauritanian refugees applied for permanent residency in Senegal several years ago, but Senegalese authorities have not responded. Refugee leaders have regularly asserted that the population will not repatriate until Mauritania guarantees their citizenship and reimburses them for lost property.

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