UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, called for enhanced support for those recently displaced in Mali, where continued violence and threats by armed groups have forced local Malians and refugees to flee for safety.
“Since the departure of Barkhane and the European troops there is a vacuum created by this departure”, said Mohamed Toure, UNHCR’s Mali representative when speaking at a press briefing today at the United Nations in Geneva. “In this vacuum right now, we don’t have any state authorities in that region, so it is really left in the hands of armed groups, terrorist armed groups, that are really spreading terror, spreading killings, spreading rapes, creating misery”.
Operation Barkhane was an anti-insurgent operation that started on 1 August 2014 and formally ended on 9 November 2022. It was led by the French military against Islamist groups in Africa's Sahel region.
The operation was led in co-operation with five countries that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. France began withdrawing its troops from Mali on 17 February 2022.
According to UNCHR’s Mohamed Toure, ”we are just noticing people who are coming in masses in this region, including refugees who have been displaced for quite a long number of years, of time, in those regions. Those are the same refugees coming out again in the different regions”.
Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal are some of the towns to which the refugees are currently fleeing to seek for security. UNHCR and its partners are supporting local authorities in responding to the needs of forcibly displaced families and providing them with emergency shelter, education, food and water supply and cash assistance aimed at economic empowerment.
”We are talking about almost half a million people who are in need of assistance in terms of displacement”, said UNHCR’s Mali representative. “Of course, beyond that, in Mali we have almost 3 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance and only 38% of the assistance requested was gathered last year in order to secure assistance of protection to IDP’s and refugees”.
As of 31 December 2022, so UNHCR, Mali hosted more than 60.000 refugees, including 25,000 from Burkina Faso. Meanwhile, some 440,000 Malians remain internally displace due to continued violence and threats from armed groups coming from different backgrounds.
”We have often times testimonies from refugees, or testimonies from IDP’s noting that they have been in touch, or they have seen on the scene those groups that can be conceived as not Malian troops, but as foreign troops involved in those conflicts.
As the needs of the displaced remain enormous, UNHCR is appealing to the international community to show greater solidarity for the displaced in Mali and in neighboring countries to be able to continue to deliver life-saving assistance.
”Unfortunately”, so Mr. Toure, “this kind of Mali fatigue, if I can call it that way, and we are really seeing that kind of diminishing drastically of the assistance provided to IDP’s and refugees”.