Sep 17, 2012, 1:03 PM
At least 2000 refugees who arrived in The Gambia in 2011-2012 were registered recently at Buluntu village and Bwiam in the Foni Kansala district of the West Coast Region.
The exercise, which covered refugees who arrived after the last registration in 2010, was conducted by UNHCR, Gambia government, and the Gambia Food and Nutrition Association, GAFNA.
The exercise, among others, seeks to get reliable statistics of refugees in The Gambia; know the profile and the geographic location of Senegalese refugees in The Gambia; establish procedures for updating data and continuous registration of refugees.
According to the UNHCR officials, the registration exercise aims to strengthen the protection of Senegalese refugees in The Gambia.
Speaking at the exercise, Buramanding Jaiteh, protection officer UNHCR Banjul office, who also doubles as the registration team leader, said the purpose of the exercise was to update the database of Senegalese refugees in The Gambia.
According to him, The Gambia has been playing host to Senegalese refugees from Casamance who fled from the conflict between the rebels and the Senegalese army.
“Every year, there are periodic clashes between the rebels and the Senegalese army, and each time there is a clash, it produces Senegalese refugees in The Gambia, while others fled to Guinea Bissau,” Jaiteh stated.
He revealed that as a result of this movement of people from one country to another, it is worthy for such an exercise to be conducted in order to account for every refugee.
The UNHCR, he went on, has a special database that keeps track of refugees and other records, which are very vital.
“This database is called progress database, which is a highly sophisticated and UNHCR needs people who are very much conversant with the operation of the database,” Jaiteh noted.
Turning to the history of the Senegalese refugees in The Gambia, Jaiteh explained that there exists a rebel group in Casamance that was fighting for independence with the Senegalese army for decades.
Based on the influx of these refugees into The Gambia, UNHCR deems it necessary to provide the refugees protection as the UNHCR has the mandate.
This, he added, is why the UNHCR is doing everything possible to ensure that these refugees have the best attention possible.
Also speaking on behalf of the Gambia Government was Ebrima Ceesay, the protection officer Gambia Commission for Refugees, who said the exercise is a process that the government is embarking on for the protection of refugees in the territory, which is called refugees status determination.