Misery Awaits Refugees from Mali in Mauritania

Malian refugees walk at Mbere refugee camp, near Bassiknou, southern Mauritania. Photo: ABDELHAK SENNA, Getty Images / 2012 AFP
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Malian refugees walk at Mbere refugee camp, near Bassiknou, southern Mauritania. Photo: ABDELHAK SENNA, Getty Images / 2012 AFP

Tens of thousands of Malian refugees who took shelter in neighbouring Mauritania are now marooned in the desert, trying to survive in extremely difficult conditions.

An Anadolu Agency (AA) correspondent recently visited the Mberra refugee camp for 62,000 Malian refugees, established three months ago some 1,460 kilometres away from the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott, and provided some grim details to Turkish Weekly.

Living in tents erected in the middle of the desert, most of the refugees spend their time by sleeping in their tents, protecting themselves from the heat and wind-blown sand.

Water needs of the refugees is met by tankers and, although the summer season only just began, temperature at the camp is already around 40 degrees Centigrade during day time.

Kitchen equipment, medicines and food items are among the most needed items in the camp.

Clashes Following The End of Gadhafi Rule

The clashes in Mali erupted in January 2012, following the return of Tuareg MNLA militants, who had served in the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi’s special forces, who then  began fighting for the independence of the Azawad region, with weapons assumed to have been brought with them from Libya.

In April 2012, a section of the Malian army conducted a coup and took control of the government, claiming that the former government of Mali was not effectively dealing with Tuareg militants.

Capitalising on the coup, Tuareg militants were able to swiftly gain control of large northern cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao.

Hundreds of thousands of people are said to have been displaced due to clashes between Tuareg militants and the Malian army, but details on what threats they are escaping, why they choose to leave the country instead of heading for the south, and the logistics of their movements, are difficult to determine. That anyone would select Mauritania, with its food shortages, drought and other issues, defies rational explanation. In any event, now they are here, willingly or not, and they are suffering. Soon most will be too weak to contemplate moving again, and where would they go: back to Mali, to be used as pawns in an internal power struggle?

UN sources have told the AA that 56,000 Malians fled to Burkina Faso, 39,000 to Niger and 62,000 to Mauritania. A United Nations (UN) official in the region has told the AA that the number of refugees in the camp may significantly increase in the near future, without explaining why this might be. The official made a call on all international organizations to send assistance to the camp.

Mains source: Turkish Weekly.

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