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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs