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10 Facts About Refugees Living in the Gambia

The Gambia is a West African nation that shares most of its borders with Senegal. Despite some political instability during the past presidential election, the Gambia has remained relatively peaceful and houses a substantial number of refugees from surrounding regions. In fact, the Gambia plays a key role in alleviating the West African refugee crisis. The following are 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia.

10 Facts About Refugees Living in the Gambia

  1. The Gambia is considered one of the most refugee-friendly countries in West Africa. This can be primarily attributed to the nation’s status as a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which guarantees refugees of certain nationalities the right to work within the Gambia. Additionally, it has upheld the OAU convention held by the UN Refugee Agency in 1969, which outlined policies and protocols regarding the protection of West African refugees.
  2. According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 12,000 refugees living in the Gambia. However, the agency notes that other sources place the number between 10,000 and 30,000, as many are undocumented.
  3. The Gambia is an attractive option for English-speaking refugees, as the country maintains its colonial language as the official language.
  4. The Gambia was a major ally for Senegalese in the Casamance region of Senegal displaced by the civil war, which started in 1982 and only recently resolved in 2014. The Bambali refugee camp has accommodated hundreds of Senegalese during this period.
  5. During the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis, the Gambia offered asylum to all Southeast Asian migrants, fulfilling the “sacred duty” to help fellow Muslims.
  6. The majority of refugees living in the Gambia come from Sierra Leone, fleeing the country’s recent civil conflict. In 2003, the Gambia initiated a voluntary repatriation program for Sierra Leoneans to return home, aiding the transition for thousands of refugees.
  7. Undocumented urban refugees make up the majority of those living in the Gambia. One estimate places 10,000 living in the capital of Banjul alone.
  8. Roughly four out of 10 Gambian refugees depend on remittances from relatives or family members abroad. Refugees require a residence permit to earn money in the Gambia. However, many refugees do not have one or are still in the application process.
  9. The Gambian Food and Nutrition Association (GFNA) donated money to Senegalese refugees in 2015 with the intention of “sustaining livelihood” and “supporting self-reliance at the household level.” The GFNA has also provided food in refugee camps.
  10. The UN Refugee Agency reported that Gambian host communities were generally very accepting of refugees seeking asylum. Due to the strong culture of hospitality, integration is a good option for refugees.

Though only 10,000 square kilometers in size, the Gambia’s open policy towards migrants has made a substantial impact in helping refugees. These 10 facts about refugees living in the Gambia indicate that the nation will continue to uphold their open policy towards West African refugees in the years to come.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr