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U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Guinea-Bissau

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Guinea-Bissau , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 24 September 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.

Guinea-Bissau hosted about 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2000, including approximately 5,000 from Senegal, and 1,000 from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Thousands of citizens of Guinea-Bissau who began the year as refugees in neighboring countries voluntarily repatriated during 2000. Relatively few refugees from Guinea-Bissau remained outside the country at year's end.

Refugees from Senegal

An estimated 5,000 Senegalese refugees and asylum seekers remained in Guinea-Bissau in 2000. They fled to Guinea-Bissau during the 1990s to escape ongoing violence in southern Senegal linked to an armed separatist movement there.

The majority of refugees and asylum seekers lived in dispersed farms and villages along the country's 200-mile (320 km) border with Senegal. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assisted some 500 refugees in Jolmete camp, located about 25 miles (40 km) from the border. Refugees at the camp received health services and access to primary education.

Senegalese authorities have charged that many Senegalese asylum seekers in Guinea-Bissau were actually rebels who used refugee sites for food, protection, and recruitment of new combatants. Guinea-Bissau's government cracked down on alleged insurgents living in refugee zones during 2000. Authorities arrested 300 men for allegedly planning an armed raid into Senegal.

Uprooted Populations Return Home

Political violence in 1998 killed an estimated 2,000 people and forced about one-third of the country's 1 million people to flee their homes. Although most uprooted families returned home during 1999, some 50,000 residents remained internally displaced at the beginning of 2000, and up to 5,000 were refugees in neighboring countries.

Guinea-Bissau's uprooted populations largely completed their return home during 2000 as a fragile peace descended on the country. A ruling military junta ceded power to an elected government in February. Lingering tensions between the government and segments of the military erupted into short-lived violence in November, temporarily forcing several thousand people to flee from the capital to nearby villages. The violence abruptly ended, however, and residents rapidly returned to their homes.

In September, the U.S. government ended its program of Temporary Protected Status for citizens of Guinea-Bissau in the United States. "Given the high volume of returns and the relative civic stability evidenced by the successful and peaceful elections, it appears that Guinea-Bissauans can return safely," the U.S. attorney general stated.

Recovery from the country's 1998 violence slowly continued during 2000. The World Food Program provided food to recent returnees in need. UNICEF provided medicines, vaccinations, and repaired hospitals. Humanitarian aid organizations helped reconstruct damaged homes and offered food-for-work programs. The World Bank continued to plan a program to demobilize 10,000 soldiers and reintegrate 16,000 combatants and military veterans to civilian life.

"The overall situation in the country remains worrying," the UN secretary general reported in September. "The ever-present threat of military intervention, the precarious border situation, and the country's chronic poverty make the road ahead difficult. The challenges are formidable, and the new civilian government has neither the means nor the capacity to address them on its own."

The UN report also warned that "tensions along the Guinea-Bissau/Senegal border continue to be cause for concern."

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