Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Senegal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Senegal , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 19 February 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 more than 40,000 refugees at the end of 1999, including an estimated 40,000 from Mauritania, some 1,000 from Guinea-Bissau, and about 1,000 from other countries.

Some 10,000 Senegalese were refugees at the end of 1999, including about 5,000 in Guinea-Bissau and 5,000 in Gambia. An estimated 5,000 Senegalese were internally displaced.

Uprooted Senegalese

Armed conflict continued in southern Senegal's Casamance Province during the year despite progress in peace negotiations.

Insurgents advocating the separation of Casamance Province from the rest of Senegal engaged in armed attacks and ambushes throughout the 1990s, provoking strong counter-measures by the Senegalese military. The civilian population has suffered abuse by both sides.

The insurgency uprooted as many as 40,000 people at times during the 1990s. Some 20,000 remained uprooted at the start of 1999.

Insurgents reportedly killed 13 civilians in February. A clash between insurgents and government soldiers in April near the Casamance provincial airport left about 20 people dead and pushed 10,000 from their homes. Counterinsurgency actions by government forces mid-year reportedly killed several persons. Violence in May killed or wounded 17 people. A rocket attack near the provincial capital reportedly killed one person in December.

A local human rights organization reported that landmines have rendered 80 percent of farm land unusable in some areas of Casamance Province, resulting in some 500 deaths since 1997.

Factions within the insurgency met repeatedly during the year to iron out disagreements within the rebel movement. Peace negotiations between the insurgents and the government in December agreed to end hostilities and release detainees, but issues such as de-mining, withdrawal of government soldiers, reconstruction of schools, and the return home of uprooted people remained unresolved as the year ended.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Senegalese Red Cross conducted four food distribution campaigns to internally displaced families during the year. The final distribution in December went to nearly 5,000 displaced persons scattered among nine villages in Casamance Province.

Refugees from Mauritania

Mauritanian authorities expelled tens of thousands of people into Senegal in 1989-90, claiming they were Senegalese nationals rather than Mauritanian citizens. Although an estimated 30,000 expellees gradually returned to Mauritania during the 1990s, an estimated 40,000 remained in Senegal in 1999.

The exact number of refugees in Senegal was uncertain. Most refugee families have settled into 200 sites stretching some 400 miles (approximately 600 km) along the Senegal River, which forms the border with Mauritania. Several thousand refugees have reportedly migrated to other parts of Senegal. Most refugees have supported themselves without assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 1996.

UNHCR, which maintained only limited contact with the refugees in the late 1990s, estimated that some 20,000 remained in Senegal during 1999. A Mauritanian exile group claimed that three times that number remained in Senegal.

The refugee population and other local residents suffered flood damage to homes and crops during the year when the Senegal River overflowed in heavy rainfall. "The [refugees'] situation has worsened," reported the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Mauritania.

Refugees complained of inadequate health care, particularly for malaria, and charged that poor nutrition among refugee children impeded learning in schools. Senegalese authorities have provided books and teachers to Mauritanian students and have attempted to integrate refugee children into the local Senegalese school system. UNHCR offered vocational training in urban areas to selected refugees, but the program encountered problems when many refugee students struggled to adapt to an urban environment.

No estimates were available for the number of refugee families that repatriated during the year. Regular economic activities and migration traffic across the Senegal-Mauritania border remained normal during the year, including for refugees who temporarily crossed the border back into Mauritania for brief visits.

Many refugees have indicated that they will not repatriate until the Mauritanian government guarantees their citizenship and reimburses them for lost property. Other refugee families have indicated they want to remain permanently in Senegal because of ethnic, family, and economic ties to the area.

Refugees from Guinea-Bissau

Several thousand refugees fled to Senegal during 1998 to escape violence in neighboring Guinea-Bissau.

As peace returned to Guinea-Bissau during 1999, the refugees began to repatriate. About 1,000 refugees returned home with UNHCR assistance during the year. UNHCR provided transportation and small food packages as refugees departed Senegal. Other refugees went home spontaneously without UNHCR's help.

The 1,000 refugees who remained in Senegal at year's end primarily lived in a camp at Thies, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Camp residents received food assistance. Hundreds of other refugees lived in Dakar in the homes of friends or relatives.

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