U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Burkina Faso

  Burkina Faso hosted about 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 1997. An estimated 17,000 refugees repatriated from Burkina Faso during the year, primarily to Mali. Malian refugees, primarily ethnic Tuaregs, fled to Burkina Faso in recent years to escape fighting between the government and an armed insurgency in their own country. Peace agreements in Mali have encouraged refugees to return home. A small number of Tuareg refugees from Niger also fled to Burkina Faso. A December 1996 census fixed the number of Tuareg refugees in Burkina Faso at about 25,000. Most resided at 11 rural sites in the north of the country. General food assistance to refugees ended in mid-1997, and primary schools closed at the end of the 1996-97 school year, in conjunction with a repatriation program, UNHCR reported. Repatriation to Mali sharply accelerated in 1997, when nearly 17,000 refugees repatriated, primarily during the last half of the year, according to UNHCR. About 400 refugees in Burkina Faso repatriated to Niger, UNHCR said. Refugees who registered to repatriate received a three-month food ration and household items prior to their departure. Other refugees may have repatriated to Mali spontaneously, without first registering with UNHCR. Only several hundred Malian refugees remained at two sites in Burkina Faso at year's end. (They reportedly repatriated in early 1998.) Nearly 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers from more than 30 countries lived in urban areas of Burkina Faso at the end of 1997, UNHCR reported. More than 500 had formally been recognized under UNHCR's mandate. UNHCR provided basic care and maintenance programs consisting of food assistance and health, shelter, and education programs. UNHCR's budget in Burkina Faso during 1997 was about $1 million.       Benin hosted some 3,000 refugees at the end of 1997, including about 1,000 from Togo, nearly 1,000 from Nigeria, and about 1,000 from other countries. More than 3,000 Togolese refugees repatriated from Benin during the year. Refugees from Togo Up to 150,000 Togolese refugees fled to Benin in 1993 to escape political violence in Togo. About 100,000 returned to Togo on their own during 1993-95, as did more than 20,000 others who repatriated with UNHCR assistance. An additional 10,000 to 15,000 repatriated from Benin in 1996, most with UNHCR assistance. Fewer than 5,000 Togolese registered with UNHCR remained in Benin at the start of 1997. Several thousand others recognized by the Beninois government, but not registered with UNHCR, were also present. Most refugees in Benin resided with local families or friends. Particularly vulnerable refugees registered with UNHCR received food assistance during 1997. Additional feeding programs targeted infants, and children in primary schools. More than 3,000 Togolese refugees repatriated from Benin during the year, about two-thirds spontaneously, UNHCR reported. At year's end, nearly 1,000 Togolese refugees remained in Cotonou, Benin's largest city, while several hundred remained in Mono District. Refugees who were prominent opponents of Togo's government have expressed concern in recent years about their safety in Benin because Togolese government agents have allegedly infiltrated refugee sites. Refugees and UNHCR have noted that despite the efforts of the Beninois government, Benin's borders remained relatively porous. "In effect, security agents of neighboring countries could enter and leave Benin without being detected," UNHCR noted. Refugees from Nigeria Hundreds of Nigerian refugees arrived in Benin during 1996. Most were ethnic Ogonis. Essentially all Nigerian refugees in Benin during 1997 received food assistance, UNHCR reported. Like Togolese refugees, Nigerian refugees in Benin have complained of infiltration and surveillance by agents of their home country. In February 1997, at least one Nigerian refugee, a journalist by profession, disappeared after leaving a class at a Bible school in Cotonou, UNHCR reported. Some reports asserted that Nigerian security services were holding the man, who was still missing at year's end.

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