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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says it has begun the
final stage of the organized voluntary repatriation of Mauritanian
refugees from Senegal. It says between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees are
expected to return by the end of the year.
The U.N. refugee agency says
the end of this repatriation will mark the conclusion of a UNHCR
operation that began in 1989. The 2009 repatriation began in January.
But, it was suspended between mid-July and mid-October because of the
rainy season, which made roads impassable.
Andrej Mahecic, says more than 14,000 Mauritanian refugees, comprising
3,634 families, had returned from Senegal to four regions in Mauritania
before the operation was suspended.
"Strong support is needed
for them to rebuild their lives," he said. "The Mauritanian national
refugee organization and its partners are assisting in the
reintegration process with a variety of programs allocating farm land,
providing Arabic and French language courses, doing medical screening
of the returnees, etc."
"More challenges must still be
addressed before the returnees enjoy the same conditions as other
Mauritanian citizens, including deficiencies in health, education,
water, and food security," he added.
The returns follow a call
by Mauritanian authorities in 2007 for their citizens to come home.
They fled to Senegal two decades ago to escape clashes between black
African and Moorish communities in Mauritania.
The UNHCR says it
is important to make sure the repatriation of the Mauritanian refugees
is sustainable and that the returnees become self-sufficient.
says the UNHCR and its partners, including all UN agencies, will
continue to implement income-generating activities and monitor
returnees in 2010. He says the agencies are supplying water,
distributing farming supplies, setting up cooperatives and implementing
Mahecic says it is likely that another
organized voluntary operation of refugees in Mali to Mauritania could
begin next year. He says a recent census in Mali found an estimated
8,000 out of 12,000 Mauritanian refugees may wish to return home.
he says the repatriation operation cannot go ahead until the
Mauritanian and Malian governments agree on how the returns will be