United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), on Friday quoted the Senegalese Government as saying around 45,000 people fleeing from political uncertainty may have arrived the country from neighbouring The Gambia.
There are fears that more people may continue to flee as the situation remains tense, as Senegalese and West African troops entered the country on Thursday and are said to have given seat-tight dictator- Yahya Jameh until noon on Friday to give up is claim to the country’s Presidency in the capital Banjul.
Over 75% of arrivals are said to be children, accompanied mainly by women and stay with family members, host families or in hotels, following which some families are hosting up to 40 to 50 people and will soon need support as they may quickly run out of resources.
Authorities Senegal are believed to have developed plans to distribute food and relief items to up to 100,000 people, including food like rice, oil and sugar; while non-food items will include mattresses, mats, blankets, sheets and soaps.
Those arriving in Senegal, the UNHCR noted, have been a mix of Gambians, Senegalese, bi-nationals, as well as Ghanaians, Liberians, Lebanese, Guineans, and Mauritanians among other foreigners.
As many as 800 people are said to have crossed farther 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.
Forty tons of food arrived in the Ziguinchor region yesterday and distribution to recent arrivals and host families should start in the next days.
The UN refugees agency warned that the next few days will be critical, with more people leaving the country if the current situation is not resolved peacefully soon.
The UNHCR said it stands ready with other humanitarian actors to help the Senegalese authorities through provision of expertise to assist the 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,” assured UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch.
Speaking during a Press Briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Baloch said the “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,” he added.