Mali’s refugee crisis deepens amid an escalation in violence between militias and international forces

by zoejardiniere

18.01.2013 An upsurge in violence in Mali over the past week, with clashes between the French-backed Malian army and rebel Islamist groups from northern and central Mali, has resulted in a fresh wave of displacement, forcing more refugees into neighbouring countries.

In a briefing note published this week, UNHCR revealed that the total number of refugees in the region has now reached 144,500, with people primarily finding shelter in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria. There are an estimated 229,000 internally displaced persons remaining in Mali.

90% of the refugees displaced this week are women and children, many are housed in camps, some of which had to be relocated to safer areas further from the Malian border.

UNHCR has only received 63% of the US$123 million it has appealed for from the international community to support operations in Mali and the surrounding countries.

Although violence erupted in northern Mali in January 2012 between the Government and various armed groups, France only removed Mali from its list of safe third countries of origin last December. On the assumption that persecution is unlikely to occur in these countries, asylum seekers from designated safe third countries have their applications examined in an accelerated procedure.

ECRE’s member organisation in Spain, the Spanish Commission for Assistance to Refugees (CEAR) has called on the Spanish government to guarantee the protection of any Malian citizens on Spanish territory, with a moratorium on all returns of irregular migrants to Mali, and ensured access to the asylum system.

For further information:

–         Relief Web, Maps showing a humanitarian snapshot of Mali, 14 January 2013.

–         The Guardian, Mass rape, amputations and killings – why families are fleeing terror in Mali, 15 December 2012.

–         Al Jazeera, Making Sense of Mali’s Armed Groups, 17 January 2013.

–         Deutsche Welle, EU Foreign Ministers prepare emergency Mali meeting, 17 January 2013.

–         Human Rights Watch, Mali : Islamists should free child soldiers, 15 January 2013.

–         Forum réfugiés, Mali, no longer a safe country of origin, 21 December 2012.