Senegal Regional Office


Operation: Opération: Senegal Regional Office



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Key figures

2018 year-end results
6,530 Mauritanian refugees in Senegal were issued with ID cards to solve the problems faced due to lack of documents
1,960 birth certificates were issued with the support of UNHCR in Guinea-Bissau during the first six months
1,160 Ivorian refugees were repatriated from Guinea and Togo to Côte d'Ivoire
19 refugees in Benin received cash grants for the implementation of income generating activities
10 refugees in Guinea-Bissau received nationality certificates
7 refugee households (35 people) in Sierra Leone were locally integrated, and provided with cash grants and resident permits for their mainstreaming process
2019 planning figures
4,700 people of concern in Ghana, Guinea and Togo will be provided with safe and dignified returnee transport and cash grants 
300 people of concern in Gambia will be provided with entrepreneurship / business training
1,350 households receive conditional cash grants or vouchers for education in Guinea
2,760 identity documents will be issued for PoCs in Guinea
3,000 people of concern will have their naturalisation facilitated in Guinea Bissau

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2018 40,565
2017 52,639
2016 50,160


[["Refugees",37345],["Asylum-seekers",3103],["Returned refugees",2],["Stateless",115]]
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Senegal Regional Office

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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[54.57596349,75.809563009,38.72979498,31.317165885,38.90837605,30.70906111],"expenditure":[28.71450066,32.5813122,18.43963117,19.83492682,21.67521144,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[48.1256933,46.024679439,36.93162341,29.209452145,34.3867338,28.14431111],"p2":[1.12471019,1.948594,1.79817157,2.10771374,4.52164225,2.56475],"p3":[0.21,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[5.11556,27.83628957,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[26.83959686,21.18515206,17.32054236,18.30306433,20.27862232,null],"p2":[0.64778659,0.8169717,1.11908881,1.53186249,1.39658912,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[1.22711721,10.57918844,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
The Regional Office in Senegal covers UNHCR’s operations in Benin, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, with no permanent presence in Benin and Sierra Leone.

Operational context

Overall, insecurity and terrorism within the countries in the Economic Community of West African States pose a serious threat to the seven countries. The spill-over effects of the ongoing terrorism in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria have ripple effects on the smaller states, which also have weaker economies.
With the exception of Senegal, political uncertainties persisted in the other countries throughout 2018. The uncertainty has been prompted more by the worrisome political developments as some of the countries were preparing for elections.
In Guinea, the opposition rejected the results of the February election.
In Togo, multiple large-scale protest calling for electoral and political reforms led to a deterioration in the overall security level, particularly in urban areas where violence between the security forces and members of the opposition, that called for an end to the 50-year rule by the Gnassingbé family and his ruling party, broke out. In December 2018, Togo held legislative elections, in which Gnassingbé's party won a majority of the seats.
In Guinea-Bissau, the national assembly elections held in November were relatively successful. However, in the run-up to elections, thousands of people demonstrated against what they described as lack of transparency in the electoral census.
In Sierra Leone, elections were carried out in a peaceful manner, with the opposition claiming victory in a run-off contest at the end of March 2018.
In 2018, across the seven countries, UNHCR focused on the search for durable solutions for protracted refugees with local integration and resettlement as the most preferred options.  Local integration was pursued through advocacy with the Governments on alternative legal status, mainly indefinite/long-term residence permits or naturalization. The Government of Guinea Bissau committed to naturalizing some 7,000 refugees, while the Government of Sierra Leone committed to extending the duration of residence and work permits from one to five years, with fees waived.

Population trends

In 2018, more than 41,800 people were granted refugee status (2,340 through individual refugee status determination procedures and 39,480 individuals through prima facie recognition), while some 290 people were rejected. 

By the end of 2018, the people of concern in countries within the Regional Office in Dakar were as follows: Benin: 1,490 people, Gambia: 4,380; Guinea: 5,880; Guinea Bissau: 4,880; Senegal: 16,070; Sierra Leone: 590; and Togo: 13,030.

The scope, magnitude and complexity of mixed movements within West Africa or onwards towards Europe continued to be of concern to UNHCR. West African countries were among the countries of origin of most asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants arriving in Europe through the Central and the Western Mediterranean Route.

Key achievements

In relation to mixed movements across West Africa, UNHCR:
  • Conducted a workshop with 30 law practitioners and academics from the region on statelessness and the right to a nationality according to the interlinkage between statelessness and mixed movements;
  • Ensured access to information and referral for people in need of international protection among the mixed movements by setting up information kiosks in three transit areas in Senegal;
  • Carried out capacity-building for first-contact officials, including border authorities, on the various profiles and rights of people found within mixed movements.
In Benin, UNHCR advocated with national and international organisations for refugee inclusion in development programmes, and to raise awareness of the rights and obligations of refugees.15 refugees finished their apprenticeships, while 4 out of the 11 refugees were hired at the end of their internships.
In the Gambia, UNHCR and partners conducted a secondary movement survey of refugees in September 2018. Findings of the survey indicated that 63% of the respondents, including refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons, have expressed interest to migrate to Europe and elsewhere in Africa. The survey results will guide UNHCR and partners in 2019 and beyond to implement activities that may offer alternatives to refugees and asylum seekers wishing to join mixed-migratory flows.
In Guinea-Bissau, a naturalization decree as a last stage of the naturalization process of protracted refugees was signed in December 2018, ensuring a definite solution to the refugees in protracted situation.
As part of developing a durable solutions strategy in relation to the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and returnees in Senegal, UNHCR:
  • Organised three regional multi-year, multi-partner (MYMP) protection solutions strategy workshops in September 2018 to ensure the participation of the population, as well as local and administrative authorities in remote locations. Approximately 150 people took part in the group discussions;
  • Organised another joint MYMP strategy workshop involving relevant Government staff, implementing partners, refugees and UNHCR in May 2018. These participatory events marked an important step to ensure the ownership of the MYMP strategy by the Government of Senegal and therefore the sustainability and effectiveness of the foreseen programmes;
  • Supported mixed community groups, including refugee and host community members, with projects leading to economic empowerment, self-sufficiency and local development. 10 investment projects in different sectors including agricultural and small and medium size enterprises were initiated, bringing together refugees and the host community with an active participation of local authorities.
  • Carried out advocacy activities in relation to the issuance of identification documents to refugees: seven Rwandan refugees and one Ivorian refugee were given birth notification certificates, which will enable them to present their files for the possibilities of naturalization.  Five Liberian refugees received passports from their home country ensuring their local integration, while 580 urban refugees received ID cards.
UNHCR carried put a three-day capacity-building training for National Commission for Social Action, the Government entity responsible for refugee registration, staff in Sierra Leone on the use of the new registration system. The aim of the training was to ensure that refugees and asylum-seekers’ data are well managed and secured, taking into consideration confidentiality of sensitive information in accordance with data sharing agreement signed between National Commission for Social Action and UNHCR.

Unmet needs

Little progress was made to address the backlog in refugee status determination, especially in the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali and Togo, where the appeal committees are still not functional. The capacity of national institutions remains limited and even countries with very limited numbers of new arrivals, such as Liberia or Sierra Leone, lacked proper systems to cope with the demand.
The main obstacle with regards to the voluntary return to Mauritania for all those who opted for this durable solution option continues to be the lack of cooperation by the authorities in the country of origin. There are also 433 Mauritanians who opted for none of the durable solutions.
In Guinea Bissau, refugees living in rural area do not have access to health services, potable water and education, due to lack of public infrastructure and services. UNHCR does not support these sectors either, as the strategy has been to advocate for the inclusion of refugees in the programmes of other organisations and in the national services, also considering the limited resources available to the operation. There is little presence of the international community in the Cacheu region which, combined with the absence of public infrastructure, leaves refugees in extreme vulnerability. Some schools rehabilitated by UNHCR remain without furniture.

Operational environment

The overall economic and political situation in West Africa will be relatively secure despite the fact that threats from terrorist groups will remain real during 2018.
Under RO Dakar, the protracted refugees currently include Mauritanians in Senegal, Senegalese in Gambia and Guinea Bissau, Ghanaians in Togo, Ivoirians in Guinea and Togo, and exempted - from application of the cessation clause - Liberians and Sierra Leoneans and a number of urban refugees of various nationalities in most of the countries in West Africa.
The multi-year multi-partner (MYMP) protection and solutions strategy for Senegal (Mauritanians in Senegal and Senegalese returning from Gambia and Guinea Bissau) will continue to be pursued in 2018-2019 and beyond. In January 2017, all ECOWAS member States, under the Abidjan declaration, officially appointed a government coordinator on statelessness; 12 countries elaborated an action plan to end statelessness, seven countries have started the revision of the nationality law; two countries worked towards ensuring that people eligible to nationality obtain documentary proof; and 12 States are parties to the international Statelessness Conventions.
In 2018, RO Dakar will continue to work towards finding durable solutions for the refugees, mainly those in a protracted situations, with a specific emphasis on obtaining alternative legal status that will include long term resident permits/work permits and nationality documentation. Meanwhile, options for naturalization will also be explored for those refugees who are willing, keeping in mind that administrative procedures for naturalization are often cumbersome, very expensive and include numerous requirements which hamper the local integration process.    


Benin is hosting 800 refugees and 235 asylum-seekers of various nationalities: 77 per cent from Central African Republic, 17 per cent from Côte d’Ivoire and 6 per cent of other nationalities. The biggest needs are in the area of legal and institutional capacity, refugee status determination, access to education for children at school age and income generating activities for people of concern, women and girls protection against sexual violence and abuse, as well as child protection. Legislation in Benin guarantees access to work and business creation for people of concern.
UNHCR’s response through RO Dakar in 2018 (Benin Office is scheduled to be closed by the end of 2017) will focus on reinforcing the protection environment, improving livelihood and self-reliance, partnerships and search for solutions. In particular, the strengthening of national legal and institutional frameworks. The consolidation of the asylum system will be carried out by continuing support to the Government to establish an autonomous, sustainable and quality asylum system. This will involve continuous advocacy for the passage of the asylum law, the nationality code and the decree reorganizing the national refugee commission. The revamped national strategy, which is based on four main pillars (employment, self-employment, vocational training, microfinance), is expected to enable refugees to have the necessary resources to meet their basic needs.
In Gambia, the current refugee population is close to 8,000 people consists mainly of refugees from Casamance, Senegal, (7,470). Most of the Senegalese refugees live in the rural area in over 80 host villages in Foni (West Coast Region), along the Gambian border with Senegal. The intensified peace initiative in Casamance did not result in any significant decrease in the Senegalese refugee population, even though spontaneous returns take place from time to time. In addition, the urban refugee population is 1,227 – the majority of whom are Senegalese but also include Ivorians, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans living in the Greater Banjul area.
In 2018, UNHCR’s response will continue to revolve around the four main pillars of favourable protection environment, durable solutions, self-reliance and integration of refugees into the national systems. The key elements of this strategy include capacity development of relevant Government institutions and civil society organisations to assume more responsibility in refugee protection and assistance. Another key element is the continuation of information dissemination on durable solution options, especially voluntary repatriation and local integration, through sensitisation. With the recent political change in the country, many Gambians who fled the country under the former regime have now started returning. In light of the increasing numbers of returnees in 2018-2019, UNHCR will aim to provide the necessary support services for their reintegration in the country of origin.
Guinea-Bissau is home to some 8,500 refugees from the Casamance region of, Senegal. The majority of these refugees, who arrived more than 20 years ago, are well settled in villages across the rural area because they are farmers and share a similar ethnicity as well as affinities in culture, lifestyle, livelihoods and language with the local population. The country also hosts 76 urban refugees of various nationalities. 
For Senegalese refugees in Guinea-Bissau, the main objectives will be to assist in voluntary repatriation of some 800 individuals and to finalize cases of 481 naturalization and 24 land formalization.
Political instability has created challenge in the implementation of planned activities, while bureaucracy curbs the land formalization and naturalization processes. The cost of naturalization is also very high and the presence of Government, private institutions and NGO’s in Cachew Region is insufficient.
Senegal hosts 14,725 refugees and 3,313 asylum-seekers mainly from Mauritania. The main needs identified for 2018 are harmonization of UNHCR and the National Eligibility Committee’ statistics and identification of gaps in addressing asylum claims; issuance of conventional travel documents easily-read by Senegalese authorities to ease refugee movement and ensure  protection against illegal arrest; renewal of expired refugee ID cards and advocacy for their recognition by private and public institutions; including protracted refugees in the new health policy (‘La Mutuelle’) to increase the enrolment rate (currently stands at 15 per cent).
UNHCR’s 2018 MYMP Protection and Solution strategy for Senegal will focus on six areas: 1. Mauritanian refugees who opt for local integration in Senegal will receive nationality certificates or long term resident permits. 2. Mauritanian refugees in Senegal who opt for the individual voluntary repatriation will be assisted for a safe and dignified return to their country of origin. 3. Mauritanian refugees who opt for local integration will be included in the development programme on par with nationals. 4. Given the spread of refugees across 244 sites, the complexity of the procedures and the illiteracy of most refugees, awareness centers will be established at the prefectures and sous-prefectures level where refugees will be assisted with their naturalization applications prior submitting the applications to the relevant ministries. 5. All Senegalese refugees living in the Gambia and Guinea Bissau who opt for the voluntary return will receive assistance for legal and socio-economic reintegration in Senegal. 6. Refugees who opt for local integration will have received documentation and Mauritanian refugees who will opt for mass repatriation will be assisted to do so.
Sierra Leone hosts some 700 refugees and asylum seekers in the beginning of 2017. A joint participatory assessment conducted by UNHCR and the National Registration Secretariat in February 2017, revealed the following findings: Reluctance of refugees to opt for local integration and voluntary repatriation as durable solutions; security and violence concerns; limited access to land for agricultural activities and shelter construction; and limited access to safe drinking water in two out of eight refugee locations.
The most notable constraint were due to the austerity measures implemented by the Government.
In 2018, UNHCR’s priority areas of intervention will include: support the Government in the implementation of the National Action Plan on statelessness; reinforce advocacy with Government and relevant stakeholders for the inclusion of refugees in national development programmes; conclude the implementation of local integration and facilitate naturalization process for  632 refugees; ensure government assumes full responsibility of all protection matters related to refugees and other people of concern;  advocate for the provision of compliant travel documents. Sierra Leone Office is scheduled to close by the end of 2017 and all the activities will be directly monitored by RO Dakar.
Togo hosts close to 10,000 Ghanaians refugees, including some 5,500 who arrived in 1982 and 1994 in the Kara and Sotouboua districts, as well as some 4,000 who arrived in 2012 and 2014 in the Tandjoare district. These refugees are not formally recognized by the Government, but those who arrived in 2012 and 2014 continue to benefit from UNHCR’s assistance. Furthermore, there are close to 3,500 urban refugees of various nationalities, the majority of whom are from Cote d’Ivoire. Ghanaian refugees continue to perform regular cross-border movements between the two countries.
In 2018, UNHCR will organize data collection and share information on situation prevailing in the country of origin. This will include the carrying out of go-and-see visits, collecting information on the people of concern’s intention to return. UNHCR’s priority outcomes will be: 1. Strengthening the livelihood and self-reliance of refugees through the agro-pastoral project; 2. Local integration of 500 Ghanaian refugees in legal terms through the grant of alternative status; 3. Strengthening the capacity of the Government partner (the National Commission for Refugees) to manage UNHCR’s project in rural areas; 4. Establishing the appeal commission and reducing the backlog of pending asylum applications; 5. Advocacy for ratification of two Conventions on statelessness by the Government; 6. Voluntary repatriation of some 300 Ivoirian refugees; 7. Naturalization of 116 Rwandan refugees; 8. Legal local integration of 500 Ghanaian refugees with access to alternative status.

The significant level of poverty of host communities where refugees are also living, which requires the intervention of development actors, remains a constraint.

Key priorities

The main priorities in the countries with RO Dakar in 2018 will be:
  • Capacity development of relevant Government institutions and civil society organisations to assume more responsibility in refugee protection and assistance.
  • Gradually phasing out the direct material assistance, while consolidating the support to the most vulnerable refugees for self-reliance.
  • Focus on the implementation of the activities of the National Action Plan on statelessness.
  • Reinforce advocacy with government and relevant stakeholders for the inclusion of refugees in national development programmes in all the countries under the preview of RO Dakar.
  • Conclude the implementation of local integration and facilitate naturalization or alternative legal status process in Senegal and other countries.
  • Reinforcement of livelihood and self-reliance of urban and rural refugees through agro-pastoral project in Togo
  • Support the Government in the implementation of the National Action Plan on statelessness in all the countries within the preview of  RO Dakar
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