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Situation of Refugees Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Makaila Nguebla, Jun 29, 2007
Human Rights , Refugee Rights   Interviews
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June 20th 2007-Senegal: World Refugee Day, NGOs urgently call upon the authorities and the international community to take action.

With the theme “Local Integration”, World Refugee Day was celebrated all across Senegal. Several humanitarian organizations working with refugee communities organized various events and activities.

It is important to note that there are more than 2500 asylum-seekers and thousands of refugees living in Senegal under the protection of the UNHCR and the Senegalese authorities.

This highly symbolic day provides an important opportunity for representatives of both the Senegalese administration and international organizations to take a closer look at the current situation of those persons compelled to live in exile for various reasons, including political activism or civil war.
Several activities were organized as follows:

- A joint press conference including the Mauritanian and Sierra Leonean refugee communities was organised at the RADDHO office. The event was chaired by leaders from each community, under the supervision of the representative from WARIPNET (West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network), charged with the protection and promotion of the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.
- Several radio programs were presented at “MANOORE FM” radio station by Mr Djibril Baldé, Consultant on refugee issues and Darfur. His guests included; Mr Alouise Sarr, Coordinator of PARI-Caritas (Point d’Accueil des Réfugiés et des Immigrants), Mr Makaila Nguebla, Director of Alwihda and Mr Sylvestre Kalinda, Rwandese refugee. Additionally, Djibril Baldé presented a second program in English, which allowed English-speaking refugees a chance to fully participate in debate on the situation of refugees in Senegal.

According to Mr Djibril Baldé, the current situation confronting asylum-seekers and refugees in Senegal is deplorable, and it is imperative that the authorities take action with respect to these persons, who are extremely vulnerable after having been forced into exile, and deserving of careful consideration.

It must be noted that acquiring refugee status in Senegal is an incredibly difficult and complex process. The entire process can take between 6 months and 5 years. During the entire application period, the asylum-seekers are unable to access any assistance from the UNHCR or the government of Senegal, despite the fact that Senegal is a signatory of the Geneva Convention of 1959 and that of the Organisation of the African Unity of 1969, both of which create an obligation to protect and assist refugees residing within the country. As Mr Balde asserts, “It is important to note that in Senegal, there is a remarkable absence of reception centres and other forms of social assistance for asylum-seekers and refugees, which is a pitiful state of affairs.” Additionally, he noted that the UNHCR is partially responsibility for the precarious situation in which many refugees find themselves: “The current state of affairs is deplorable.”

Considering this terrible situation, and evidently deeply concerned, Mr Balde recommends:

1- That the government of Senegal undertake a complete review of all texts governing the National Commission of Eligibility on Refugees Status (A governmental agency, similar to OFPRA in France). He would like to see local organizations working in the field of asylum-seekers and refugees be considered as observers within the National Commission of Eligibility, for transparency reasons, so that they may intercede on behalf of refugees during deliberations concerning their status. Also, he suggests that Senegalese authorities create and distribute a “Refugee Identity Card,” which would enable refugees to move about freely and help facilitate their “local integration” in accordance with the topic chosen for the current World Refugee Day.

2- That the UNHCR assure that international and regional instruments protecting refugees are respected and properly implemented by signatory countries.

3- That refugees conform to the laws and regulations of their host countries in an effort to facilitate their local integration.

4- That the general population continue to support their African refugee brothers and sisters, because no one is completely sheltered from the possibility of becoming a refugee.

5- That the African Union (A.U) creates an effective regional organisation to assist the UNHCR and refugee host countries in an effort to improve the living conditions of those vulnerable persons forced into exile. The A.U. should also attack the real causes of this forced migration in Africa, resulting from various conflicts across the continent.

6 - That the African nations financially support the representatives of the UNHCR accredited in their respective countries.

7 - That the African and international communities support the work of local Non-Governmental Organizations working in the field of refugees.

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