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Malian refugees continue to flee violence

© UNHCR Mauritania. Malian refugees in Mbera camp.

Refugees from the West African country of Mali continue to arrive in Mauritania and Burkina Faso after fleeing violence and insecurity at home.

Fighting in northern Mali between government forces and a Tuareg rebel group, which erupted in January, has forced ten of thousands of people to flee their homes and to seek safety in neighbouring countries such as Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Refugees had told UNHCR staff that they feared being caught up in the fighting and were concerned about bandits who are looting homes and property.

Government figures from the countries receiving the refugees indicate that more than 80,000 people have fled the fighting in Mali. The number of internally displaced people within Mali has recently been revised upward to roughly the same figure as that of refugees, an estimated 81,000, according to government officials.

According to Mauritanian government estimates, there are now over 31,000 Malian refugees in the country, the majority of whom have arrived in the past six weeks. On average, 1,500 refugees from Mali arrive in the country every day. In Burkina Faso, where 19,000 refugees have already been recorded by the authorities, an average of 500 Malians are crossing the border daily. UNHCR reports that the number of people fleeing into Niger had subsided over the last week of February.

UNHCR has begun registering refugees in all three asylum countries in order to better assess and address their needs. The border areas in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger where the refugees are sheltering are experiencing severe drought which has created food and water shortages.

UNHCR is working with the government authorities and our humanitarian partners to address the needs of both the incoming refugees and the local population in all three countries. Despite their own difficulties, local residents have been sharing their meager resources with the new arrivals. The refugees will be relocated to several camps that the UNHCR is establishing in the region. In Mauritania, more than 8,000 vulnerable men, women and children have already been moved. Due to the harsh living conditions in the border areas, large numbers of refugees are now requesting relocation to the camps.

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Niger: Aid Arrives: Tuaregs and others refugees flee fighting and banditry in Mali; UNHCR provides emergency assistance