The UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) has welcomed a decision by the Mauritanian government to allow some 20,000 refugees to return from neighboring Mali and Senegal, where they have spent almost two decades in exile. The Mauritanian decision was announced on World Refugee Day, June 20.
“UNHCR is very happy about this development and we will work closely with all concerned parties to ensure the smooth, dignified and secure return of all those who volunteer for such an option,” said Radhouane Nouicer, the agency’s Geneva-based director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The refugee crisis has been unresolved since 1989, when a dispute between Mauritania and Senegal exploded into ethnic violence. Tens of thousands of Mauritanian southerners fled to Senegal and Mali, while many Moorish citizens of Senegal were moved to Mauritania. Many have returned spontaneously to both countries since 1989, but considerable numbers remain, waiting for assistance and guarantees for their safety. Most of Mauritanian refugees live in makeshift settlements along the Senegal River. (Reuters, June 22)
As we have noted, the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM) put the number of refugees who fled Mauritania in 1989 at 100,000, charging a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Fulani and other Black African peoples by the Mauritanian regime. See WW4R #126, October 2006.
See our last posts on the Mauritania and the politics of the Sahel.