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Senegal: Around 45,000 have fled political uncertainty in The Gambia

Around 45,000 people are now reported to have arrived in Senegal from The Gambia – according to the Senegalese Government, amid the ongoing political uncertainty as Senegalese and West African troops entered the country on Thursday. It is feared that more people may continue to flee as the situation remains tense.

Arrivals in Senegal have been a mix of Gambians, Senegalese, bi-nationals, as well as Ghanaians, Liberians, Lebanese, Guineans, and Mauritanians among other foreigners. In addition, at least 800 people have crossed into Guinea-Bissau.

People have been arriving in Senegal’s Fatick, Kaolack and Kaffrine regions, to the North of the Gambia, as well as in the Ziguinchor, Sedhiou and Kolda regions at the southern Gambian border with Senegal. The next few days will be critical and more people may leave the country if the current situation is not resolved peacefully soon.

Over 75 per cent of arrivals are children, accompanied mainly by women. They are staying with family members, host families or in hotels. Some families are hosting up to 40 to 50 people and will soon need support as they may quickly run out of resources. Authorities in Senegal have developed plans to distribute food and relief items to up to 100,000 people. Food will include rice, oil, sugar while non-food items will include mattresses, mats, blankets, sheets and soaps. Forty tons of food arrived in the Ziguinchor region yesterday and distribution to recent arrivals and host families should start in the next days. 

UNHCR with other humanitarian actors stand ready to help the authorities and provide our expertise on assisting displaced populations. We are also available to support the authorities to establish a harmonized registration system, as well as to train border personal on refugee rights and protection principles. 

UNHCR has deployed assessment teams to Senegal’s key border areas with the Gambia and our staff are closely working with the local authorities to assess the needs of people who have arrived in Senegal. In Dakar, UNHCR is constantly in contact with the Interior Ministry - in charge of coordinating the humanitarian response. We will continue our contingency preparations in collaboration with other UN Agencies, international and national NGOs, as well as implementing and government partners.

The Gambia, itself, hosts some 8,000 refugees, mainly Senegalese, who remains anxious and worried over the unfolding political events in the country.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).