Tens of thousands of Malians have made their way to Algeria, Togo, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania and Burkina Faso to avoid oppression from armed conflicts between the Malian army, members of the Tuareg movement and other regional factions. In January 2012, a military coup exacerbated this exodus. Ever since this coup, violence in Mali has continued despite the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation that was signed in June 2015. This has hampered the return of displaced and stateless Malians who are spread across the continent. Prejudice, persecution and ethnic stigmatization continue to hinder the development of peace in the region.

10 Facts About Refugees in Burkina Faso

  1. As of March 2017, there were 32,972 individual refugees and 8,787 families residing in the country, according to government statistics and sources from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Comparatively, in late December 2014, 32,097 refugees were in the country.
  2. Most refugees in Burkina Faso are women (51.6 percent), individuals between 18-59 years of age (40.5 percent) and children between the ages of 5 and 11 (26.28 percent).
  3. With respect to ethnicity, most refugees in Burkina Faso are Tuareg (75 percent). Over the last year, more than 2,000 refugees from northern Mali were registered. General regional insecurity, gender-based violence and food shortages are largely to blame.
  4. Fifty-seven percent of refugees do not have an occupation (8,801 males and 10,098 females). Most men are breeders (11.49 percent or 3,620) and most women are cleaners (12.17 percent or 3,964). In the capital, most refugee artisans, such as leather workers and blacksmiths, earn income from tourists and municipal needs. UNHCR provides financial assistance to artisans who organize themselves into groups.
  5. Refugees in Burkina Faso reside in two primary camps: Mentao and Goudoubou. As of March 31, 2017, Mentao holds 12,658 individuals and 3,534 families. Comparatively, Goudoubou has 10,131 refugees and 2,863 families.

  1. Every refugee within the Mentao and Goudoubou encampments has access to healthcare.
  2. A large percentage of refugees in Burkina Faso (80.33 percent) have a primary education – more than any other educational level. Roughly 46 percent of refugees are students (1,820 males and 1,300 females).
  3. According to the UNHCR April 2017 West Africa Funding Update, Burkina Faso has only received 16 percent of its needed funds – there is a gap of $17.8 million. Additionally, only 19 percent of the funding needed to support all West African refugees has been received. A total of $231.7 million is still needed.
  4. Based on March 2017 figures, a total of 776 individual refugees and 251 families live in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, while in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, 607 refugees (mostly men) and 228 families have taken up residence. What distinguishes urban refugees from those in rural settings or encampments? The answer is twofold. Firstly, their skills are said to be more developed than those in traditional camps. Secondly, they have greater access to employment opportunities because of those skills. Together, these elements mean urban refugees have the means to support themselves, which reduces the need for humanitarian aid.
  5. In Burkina Faso, the National Commission for Refugees (CONAREF) and UNHCR provide financial, logistical and healthcare assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers (in addition to many other NGOs and government agencies). However, if refugees wish to return home, they can waive the protection and health care provided by these entities.

At present, the UNHCR plans to continue its registration of refugees in Burkina Faso. This includes identity cards, biometric CTVs and refugee certificates. This should enable the government to improve its data collection activities on refugees, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness. Statistical accuracy will enable UNHCR, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to improve their quality of humanitarian assistance in the region.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr