Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Senegal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 11 July 2007
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Senegal, 11 July 2007, available at: [accessed 22 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.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reported cases of physical assault or refoulement in 2006.

Asylum seekers had to apply to the National Refugee Eligibility Committee, fill out forms, and submit application letters, photos, and identity documents. The Committee gave them receipts establishing their right to remain until the Committee ruled, and appointments for interviews with officers of the Committee and the immigration department of the Ministry of Interior within two weeks. After the interviews, the Committee met to decide cases and, if it approved, issued applicants certificates attesting to their recognition as refugees while they waited for decrees signed by the president of the country formally granting it. Rejected applicants had 15 days to appeal to the Committee if they had new facts to present, failing there, to the president of the country but not to any independent body. They could use lawyers.

Senegal was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) and its 1967 Protocol without reservation, and to the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The 2001 Constitution established that international agreements were of higher legal authority than local laws. A 1968 law on the status of refugees recognized refugees under the mandate of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the 1951 Convention. The law also established a refugee commission composed of the representatives of various ministries, with UNHCR as an observer, that decided to grant or revoke refugee status, and prohibited their forcible return. It also provided that refugees should enjoy all the rights of the 1951 Convention. A 1978 decree established a Refugee Commission to recommend grants or withdrawals of refugee status under the definitions of either Convention. Asylum seekers were to address their applications to the president of Senegal in care of the president of the Commission.

By the end of 2006, Senegal hosted about 23,000 refugees, mainly from Mauritania, and 2,500 asylum seekers. The majority of asylum seekers arrived from Guinea Bisseau; an estimated 700 Guineans crossed into Senegal in early 2006 due to separatist fighting in the region. Other refugees and asylum seekers arrived from Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire. During the year, about 300 people filed for refugee status with UNHCR which recognized fewer than ten as refugees, although the process sometimes took a year or two.

Senegal continued to offer informal protection of nearly 20,000 Mauritanian refugees. Mauritanians repatriated informally across the border and sometimes returned to Senegal after a short period.

Detention/Access to Courts

Authorities detained, usually for less than 24 hours, refugees or asylum seekers they found without identity cards and notified UNHCR, which could intervene for their release and monitor detention conditions. UNHCR and other NGOs also provided lawyers to detained refugees and asylum seekers.

Most Mauritanian refugees did not have identity cards, retaining only application receipts, some dating back to 1989. Refugees International reported that, in one settlement of 5,000 refugees, only 10 had refugee cards. To renew their documents, they had to travel to Dakar and pay fees, and some complained of police harassment when they tried to travel in the country. Many refugees obtained illegal identity cards to find employment and to move freely. The Committee issued receipts or certificates to 270 refugees and asylum seekers during the year, but, since 2000, had suspended issuing refugees identity documents in response to objections from the Mauritanian Government and showed no inclination to start again, despite a 1987 decree mandating their delivery and a 2005 memorandum from the refugee community requesting them.

UNHCR and UNICEF encouraged birth registry in refugee settlements, but many Mauritanian parents were reluctant to register the births of their children, fearing eventual denial of their Mauritanian citizenship.

The 1978 decree obliged the interior minister to issue to all registered refugees without charge certificates of their status and identity cards valid for ten years, renewable, and establishing the bearers' rights to remain in the country. At the beginning of each year, refugees had to present their cards to the authorities in their area of residence.

The Constitution extended to all the principle of equality before the law and its prohibition of arbitrary detention. Refugees generally enjoyed access to courts.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Refugee identity cards and asylum application receipts entitled their bearers to freedom of movement. Police took several refugees into custody for traveling without identity cards, and others without cards complained of harassment when they traveled. Many obtained illegal cards, allowing them to move more freely.

Thousands of Mauritanians lived in two main settlements, N'Dioum and Dodel, near the border, but did not have to. No camps for other groups of refugees existed. Most lived in the river valley in villages and small settlements in a 360-mile strip on the border.

Twenty refugees received international travel documents. In order to obtain them, refugees had to apply to the interior minister, through UNHCR, confirm their refugee status, state their reasons for travel, and show a return plane ticket. Mauritanian refugees occasionally repatriated informally.

The Constitution reserved to citizens its rights to move about freely, to choose one's place of residence, and to leave the country, but the 1978 decree provided that the interior minister would issue international travel documents to refugees. A 1989 decree offered international travel documents to Mauritanian refugees registered with the Ministry of Interior if they applied to the prefect of their department of residence.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees with only receipts but not cards could not work or open bank accounts, although many obtained illegal cards, allowing them to find employment. In at least one case, the Government denied a registered refugee permission to practice a profession.

Refugees could engage in markets and farm work pursuant to local arrangements and were able to own property.

The Constitution guaranteed to all the right to work, including the right to form labor unions and strike. The Refugee Law granted refugees the same right to work as nationals but, with regard to practicing professions, treated them as foreigners from countries with which Senegal had the most favorable treaty. A 1971 law conditioned permission of foreigners to practice professions upon authorization of their establishments and certificates by the authorities that the applicants satisfied all legal requirements. The Constitution reserved to citizens its protection to engage in business, and to own property.

Public Relief and Education

Registered refugees in the capital, Dakar, received some aid from the Bureau d'Orientation Social but asylum seekers and those without status did not. UNHCR stopped providing general assistance to Mauritanians in 1998, although it continued to provide some community aid. Refugees without identity cards did not have access to public health services but registered refugees and asylum seekers had the right to the same health services as nationals.

Refugee children with birth registration could attend primary schools along with nationals, but the situation in the settlements varied. In one, all children over the age of six attended primary school, while in another, less than 50 out of 1,700 children attended.

The Constitution reserved to citizens its rights to health but extended to all children the right to go to school, and the Refugee Law granted refugees the same rights as nationals with regard to public assistance and education.

The Government generally allowed UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations access to aid refugees and asylum seekers. The 2002 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PSRP) Senegal prepared for the International Monetary Fund and other donors noted refugee malnutrition, poverty, and vulnerability. It promised programs to reduce the social exclusion of refugees and specific arrangements "to allow them to take advantage of wealth-generating opportunities," including, with donor assistance, "a special fund to support displaced persons and refugees" and listed it as a priority action. Its 2004 and 2005 progress report on implementation of the PSRP, however, mentioned none of these, and the Government did not include refugees in any development programs.

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