News / Africa

UNHCR Says Malian Refugees Fearful of Going Home

A woman walks past a child playing with water in a refugee camp in Sevare, Mali, Jan. 26, 2013.
A woman walks past a child playing with water in a refugee camp in Sevare, Mali, Jan. 26, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations refugee agency reports the number of internally displaced people in Mali and refugees in neighboring countries remains high and in some areas is growing.  The UNHCR says the displaced and refugees are fearful of returning home despite improvements in the security situation in northern Mali. 

The U.N. refugee agency estimated more than 430,000 Malians were uprooted by the conflict that began last year.  It warns this displacement crisis is likely to become long-lasting unless the country's ethnic groups learn to co-exist peacefully. 

The agency says it is currently planning support for reconciliation in areas of displacement and returns, as well as in refugee camps.  But, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards notes these efforts cannot go forward until refugees and the displaced return to the homes they fled.  And, this, he says is a major problem because people are too afraid to return home.

"For IDP's (internally displaced persons) and refugees alike the primary worry remains insecurity," he said. "Continued fighting, suicide attacks, reprisal attacks against some communities, the presence of mines and unexploded ordinance in the regions of Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu, are all cited as reasons to delay returning.  However, the absence of services in the north is very clearly also a factor.  Few schools are functioning there.  Government authorities are still absent in many towns and cities and many displaced families prefer simply to wait." 

A Tuareg rebellion for independence in northern Mali broke out in January 2012.  Two months later, army officers overthew the Malian president.  The Tuaregs launched an effort to seize the north, only to be pushed aside by al-Qaida-linked Islamist groups who imposed harsh forms of Sharia on the region.

In January, French forces succeeded in chasing the militants from their strongholds.   While this action has improved security and access to northern Mali, the situation there remains very fragile and uncertain.

UNHCR spokesman Edwards says very few IDPs staying in the capital Bamako are returning to their northern homes.  He says refugees in neighboring countries share this reluctance to return.

"For those outside Mali, an additional complication is the ethnic make-up, as a majority of the refugees are Tuareg or Arab.  Fear of reprisal attacks is widespread, as is fear of criminality or that jihadists might remain present in the community," said the spokesman.

Edwards says new refugee numbers are substantially lower now than a few weeks ago.  Nevertheless, he says refugees, albeit in smaller numbers, are continuing to flee Mali.  He notes the number of new arrivals in Mauritania last month averaged more than 1,500 a week, while refugee numbers in Burkina Faso and Niger are static.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid