Gambia receives new influx of refugees fleeing fighting in Senegal, UN agency reports

10 May 2002

The Gambia has received a new influx of some 2,000 Senegalese refugees fleeing fighting between government and separatist forces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

The Gambia has received a new influx of some 2,000 Senegalese refugees fleeing fighting between government and separatist forces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

The new arrivals came from Senegal's Casamance region after fleeing the area of Diouloulou, where the Government reportedly sent police forces as part of a mop-up operation ahead of municipal elections on 12 May, a spokesman for UNHCR said in Geneva.

The operation was apparently sparked by an attack Wednesday on a government electoral convoy by the Casamance Democratic Forces Movement (MFDC), which has been waging a separatist struggle since the early 1980s, according to spokesman Ron Redmond. The attack reportedly killed at least seven people and injured four more, and local press reports indicated that the Senegalese forces have so far arrested 33 alleged rebels.

The Gambian Red Cross and UNHCR's partner Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA) have been present at the border, where an average of 50 to 100 refugees arrive each day, and food provided by the government has been distributed to the refugees.

Meanwhile, the UN agency voiced concern about the deterioration of the security situation in Liberia following fighting this week near the town of Gbarnga, in northeast Bong County.

People were reportedly fleeing the area in large numbers, Mr. Redmond said. Some 900 students and teachers from the country's second largest university were evacuated by a police convoy to the capital, Monrovia, where many people were reportedly headed.

"It is also feared that the continued fighting could prompt movements of refugees into neighbouring countries, particularly Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire," the spokesman said. "UNHCR staff in both countries are getting prepared for this eventuality."

 

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