Benin hosted approximately 3,000 refugees at the end of 1999, including about 2,000 from Togo, some 1,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, and several hundred from Nigeria.

Refugees from Togo

Approximately 2,000 Togolese refugees lived in Benin at year's end, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Several thousand more unregistered Togolese refugees may have remained in the country, according to government estimates.

Most arrived in 1993 with an influx of up to 150,000 Togolese who fled to Benin to escape their government's violent resistance to democratic reforms.

A general amnesty for Togolese refugees in 1994 and relative improvements in Togo in subsequent years led to the large-scale return of Togolese refugees as part of a UNHCR-organized repatriation program, completed in mid-1997. No Togolese refugees are known to have repatriated in 1999.

Many Togolese refugees who remained in Benin at year's end were prominent opponents of Togo's ruling party and were unlikely to repatriate. More than two-thirds lived in Benin's urban areas. About 300 lived in two refugee camps. Assistance programs ranged from basic health care and education to food distribution for vulnerable groups. UNHCR supported income-generation projects, vocational training, and subsidized employment programs.

Refugees from Nigeria

Hundreds of Nigerian refugees arrived in Benin in 1996. Most were ethnic Ogoni who fled Nigeria after the 1995 execution of nine members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, and Nigeria's subsequent repression of Ogoni in early 1996.

About 300 Nigerian refugees remained in Benin at the end of 1999. Most reportedly did not wish to repatriate. Prior to 1999, the refugees expressed fear that Nigerian government agents had infiltrated into Benin to target Nigerian refugees. There were no such reports in 1999.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

Some 1,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa (also known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire) arrived in Benin beginning in August 1999 as part of an operation arranged by the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the International Organization for Migration. Most of the refugees will eventually resettle in the United States, Canada, or Belgium.

Most of the refugees were ethnic Tutsi Congolese who had been detained for about one year by their own government during their country's war. In October, UNHCR opened a new refugee camp in Kpomasse, 25 miles (40 km) from the capital, primarily to accommodate the newly arrived Congolese refugees.


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