The UN Refugee Agency said several thousand Gambians, mainly woman, children and elderly, have crossed to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau to escape growing tension over the results of last month’s presidential election.
“UNHCR teams report seeing buses filled with children, accompanied by women, cross the border,” said Liz Ahua, the regional representative for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s refugee commission, Tibna Sambe Na Wana said more than 1,000 Gambians had crossed into the country where they do not require a visa, in recent days.
“It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily,” Na Wana said.
Tens of thousands more are internally displaced and fled to provincial Gambia this week.
Aid agencies and Senegalese authorities are deploying joint field missions, especially to southern Senegal’s Casamance region, bordering Gambia to mitigate the influx.
Many that have crossed to the north of The Gambian border towards Dakar are staying with relatives but several thousand people have crossed to seek shelter, mainly in the Ziguinchor, Sédhiou, Kaolack and Kolda areas, where they have no extended families.
“Most are staying with relatives or host families. Some households have more than doubled or tripled in size, which risks putting a strain on their resources, especially food,” Ahua said.
Senegalese authorities, with the support of UNHCR, are working to strengthen registration systems. Most arrivals in Senegal are Gambians and Senegalese who have been working or living in the Gambia but also includes Ghanaians, Guineans, Liberians, Mauritanians and Lebanese among the arrivals.
Diplomatic efforts for President Yahya Jammeh to step down were unsuccessful and the President-elect Adama Barrow has been sent to take cover in Dakar, Senegal’s capital ahead of a possible deployment of ECOWAS troops to oust Jammeh.
(Reporting by UNHCR, Africa News, AFP; Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Writing by Dibie Ike Michael, Hélène Caux; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)