This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.
New data from Mali is showing a higher number of internally displaced people than previously reported. According to the Commission on Population Movement in Mali, a working group under the Protection Cluster lead by UNHCR, at least 203,845 people are currently displaced. Previously, the estimate was 118,795 people.
The revised figure reflects in part better access to areas in the north by the Commission, as well as improved counting of IDPs in Bamako, thanks to work done by IOM. There the number of displaced people was estimated at 46,000 as of September from 12,000 last June and July
However, there have also been indications of actual new displacement, with people reported to be fleeing because of general insecurity and a deteriorating human rights situation in the north of the country, fear of imminent military activity, and because of loss of livelihoods and limited access to basic services.
New refugee arrivals are also being seen in neighbouring countries: In Niger there were 3853 refugees in September and October, while in Burkina Faso last month there were 1000. For UNHCR and its partners, access to refugees is becoming more difficult in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The risk of abductions of aid workers means that our teams have to travel with armed escorts. Frequent security alerts are limiting access to the camps and our ability to assist the refugees.
In Burkina Faso, we have started voluntary relocation of Malian refugees from Ferrerio camp and Deou Tamachek site in the northern province of Oudalan, to a safer and improved site further south at Goudebou. Ferrerio hosts 9,700 refugees and Deou accommodates 2,100 refugees, and so far 400 people have been moved from these sites to Goudebou. A new convoy is scheduled to leave today carrying 200 refugees from Ferrerio. Additional relocation convoys are planned from other sites over the next weeks.
Security is also a concern in Niger. Schools have not started yet in the camps as school structures are still being built. UNHCR fears that without schooling, children and adolescents may return to Mali where there is a risk of recruitment by various armed groups. A lack of funding for recreational and professional activities in the camps means that many refugees are not meaningfully occupied.
To date, we have received 41.7 per cent of the US$153.7 million we required to assist the Malian refugees and IDPs.