Senegal: UNHCR says some 45,000 people have fled Gambia to Senegal

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - Some 45,000 people are now reported to have arrived in Senegal from The Gambia – according to the Senegalese Government, amid the ongoing political uncertainty as Senegalese and West African troops entered the country on Thursday to force out former president Yahya Jammeh.

In a statement on Friday, the UN refugee agency said it was feared that more people might continue to flee as the situation remained tense. Hundreds of people, mainly tourists, have also flown out of Gambia.

It said arrivals in Senegal had been a mix of Gambians, Senegalese, bi-nationals, as well as Ghanaians, Liberians, Lebanese, Guineans, and Mauritanians among other foreigners. In addition, at least 800 people have crossed into Guinea-Bissau.

People have been arriving in Senegal’s Fatick, Kaolack and Kaffrine regions, to the north of the Gambia, as well as in the Ziguinchor, Sedhiou and Kolda regions at the southern Gambian border with Senegal.  

"The next few days will be critical and more people may leave the country if the current situation is not resolved peacefully soon," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

The refugee situation has been triggered by tension in the West African country following the refusal of former president Jammeh to leave office at the end of his term of office.

A West African military force has entered Gambia to force out Jammeh if he does not agree to last minute pleas to leave peacefully.

UNHCR said over 75 per cent of arrivals were children, accompanied mainly by women and they were staying with family members, host families or in hotels.

"Some families are hosting up to 40 to 50 people and will soon need support as they may quickly run out of resources," it said.

UNHCR said authorities in Senegal had developed plans to distribute food and relief items to up to 100,000 people.

Food would include rice, oil, sugar while non-food items would include mattresses, mats, blankets, sheets and soaps, it said, adding 40 tons of food arrived in the Ziguinchor region on Thursday and distribution to recent arrivals and host families should start in the next days.

"UNHCR with other humanitarian actors stand ready to help the authorities and provide our expertise on assisting displaced populations. We are also available to support the authorities to establish a harmonized registration system, as well as to train border personal on refugee rights and protection principles."

UNHCR said it had deployed assessment teams to Senegal’s key border areas with the Gambia and its staff were closely working with the local authorities to assess the needs of people who had arrived in Senegal.

In Dakar, UNHCR said it was constantly in contact with the Interior Ministry - in charge of coordinating the humanitarian response.

"We will continue our contingency preparations in collaboration with other UN Agencies, international and national NGOs, as well as implementing and government partners."

The Gambia, itself, hosts some 8,000 refugees, mainly Senegalese, who remain anxious and worried over the unfolding political events in the country.
-0- PANA MA 20Jan2017

20 january 2017 11:46:06

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