The number of Mauritanian refugees that have returned home from years of exile in Senegal under a programme launched by the United Nations refugee agency last year has now topped 10,000.
Amath Thioye was named the 10,000th returnee and was part of a convoy carrying 360 Mauritanians that arrived in the town of Boghé in southwest Brakna province last week, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“I am deeply grateful to everyone who made it possible for me and my family to return home today,” said the emotional 55-year-old, who had spent more than two decades as a refugee in Senegal.
Tens of thousands of Mauritanians fled to Senegal and Mali following ethnic violence that erupted in 1989 amid a long-standing dispute between Mauritania and Senegal over the location of their common border.
Most of the refugees from Mauritania live in makeshift settlements along a 600-kilometre stretch of the Senegal River Valley, bordering Mauritania. In Mali, most of the refugees are settled in areas close to the border with Mauritania.
Last week’s convoy was the 44th organized by UNHCR since it launched its repatriation programme for thousands of Mauritanians in January 2008. The agency is also assisting with reintegration programmes for the returnees, including income-generation and water projects.