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Repatriation for Mauritanian refugees resumes from Senegal

Briefing Notes, 19 October 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 19 October 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday (Monday) morning, UNHCR resumed its repatriation operation for Mauritanian refugees from Senegal following a 10 month break. We transported a first group of 121 passengers to the southern Mauritanian town of Rosso across the River Senegal that marks the natural boundary between the two countries.

Voluntary repatriations from Senegal to Mauritania were suspended in December 2009 pending a tripartite meeting of the two countries with UNHCR. That meeting took place in July, allowing repatriations to resume now that the rainy season is over. We are planning weekly convoys to transport home some 2,500 refugees by the end of this year. These are people who have been given clearance by the Mauritanian authorities to go back to the Trarza region of southern Mauritania.

The meeting also agreed to a strengthened Mauritanian government role in the repatriation process. Starting this week, the government has taken over the transportation of its returning citizens to their final destinations, the allocation of temporary shelters and construction kits to returnee families, as well as distributions of hot meals upon arrival. Previously, these activities were carried out by UNHCR while the authorities mainly handled the administrative formalities of refugee returns into the country.

UNHCR welcomes Mauritania's greater involvement in the process and will continue to support its authorities in making returns sustainable. This assistance includes a cash grant, mosquito nets, blankets and provision of shelter kits to vulnerable families. UNHCR will also continue providing micro-credits to help returnees to become self-reliant, and maintain protection monitoring activities.

Refugees from Mauritania have been in Senegal for more than two decades. They are among the tens of thousands who fled when a longstanding border dispute between Mauritania and Senegal degenerated in April 1989. However their voluntary return only became possible after the Mauritanian government called in 2007 on its citizens to return home from exile.

Monday's departure was the 80th convoy UNHCR has organized since launching the repatriation operation in January 2008, which has seen the return of more than 19,000 Mauritanian refugees.

There are still 21,300 Mauritanian refugees in Senegal and another 10,500 in Mali, of the initial 60,000 who fled to both countries in 1989.

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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

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