Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Gambia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Gambia , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
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.

Gambia hosted about 15,000 refugees at the end of 2001, including nearly 10,000 from Sierra Leone and about 5,000 from Senegal. Up to 10,000 new refugees fled to Gambia during the year, but many of them repatriated a few months later.

Refugees from Sierra Leone

Civil war in Sierra Leone pushed some 10,000 refugees into Gambia during the 1990s.

The vast majority of Sierra Leonean refugees lived in villages and in the capital, Banjul, where they generally supported themselves and did not require humanitarian assistance. About 1,000 refugees lived in two small camps, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided food, water, health care, educational assistance, farming programs, and training to help refugees earn income.

Refugees from Senegal

Some 5,000 Senegalese refugees lived in Gambia at the start of 2001, pushed from their country during 1997-98 by an armed insurgency.

A wave of violence in Senegal in mid-2001 temporarily pushed another 10,000 refugees into Gambia. Most new refugees moved in with Gambian residents in 60 villages. Generous local families in the border zone each provided shelter to an average of nearly two dozen refugees, a survey found; some households accommodated as many as 100 refugees. When villagers quickly depleted their own food stocks, local aid workers and the World Food Program distributed emergency rations.

UNHCR attempted to alleviate conditions by moving new refugee arrivals to camps farther from the border. Gambian officials urged the refugee population to choose between relocation within Senegal or voluntary repatriation. Most new arrivals resisted the transfer and chose to stay in the border zone without assistance, although some returned home to Senegal.

Approximately 5,000 refugees had repatriated by July – about two months after their arrival. Additional repatriations might have occurred later in the year. UNHCR reported that 200 refugees repatriated involuntarily under pressure by Gambian authorities.

The refugee population's sudden arrival and departure, and refugees' reluctance to leave Gambia's border area, "made it difficult to plan appropriate interventions," UNHCR reported.

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