Violence Against Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

Malian refugee women carry water to their shelters in a nearby camp Malian refugee women carry water to their shelters in a nearby camp UNHCR/HELENE CAUX

04 May 2020

UNHCR condemned the violence committed at Mentao camp

Security forces from Burkina Faso injured 32 Malian refugees living at the Mentao camp on 2 May 2020. The camp is located in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region and houses 6,500 refugees. The security forces took male refugees, both men and boys, out of their homes while conducting house-to-house searches. The security forces then allegedly beat these refugees with belts, ropes, and sticks. The injured refugees are receiving medical treatment at a Djibo health center. 

The searches were reportedly carried out to locate armed weapons that were believed to be used in an attack on soldiers earlier on 2 May. The attack took place nearby on the Djibo-Ouagadougu road. The Burkinabé security forces accused refugees of being complicit with the unidentified gunmen who attacked the soldiers. The security forces then gave the refugees the decision between leaving the camp in the next three days or facing death. Armed groups, both government and ethnic groups, have been strengthening their presence in the Sahel region over the recent months. Thousands of refugees from Mali have returned from Burkina Faso back to Mali because of this increase in violence.

UNHCR’s Director for the Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa, Milicent Mutuli, called the violence “totally unacceptable”. She then added, “Refugees living in Mentao camp should be protected.” Furthermore, UNHCR has called for an urgent investigation into the violence in a letter addressed to Burkina Faso’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, citing grave concern for the safety of the refugees as the reason for the investigation. UNHCR staff relocated its staff out of the Mentao camp in November 2019 due to increasingly recurrent violent acts. Since this relocation, refugee women and children have experienced difficulties with access to schools, health centers, and security. UNHCR reiterated its request to the Government of Burkina Faso to grant safety to refugees moving to the camp.


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Author: Vito Quaglia

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