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Contact Address:
UNHCR - Gambia


Banjul area Head Office
Kotu East
The Gambia, West Africa

Tel no: 4464307 (refugee center)
              4464169 (High Commissioner)
Fax:     4464169


United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees programme in the Gambia started along with the rising civil conflicts in West Africa.

The number of refugees has  risen and fallen over the years, yet what did not change was the fact that the Gambia was seen as an attractive alternative for people fleeing their country of origin due to increasing conflict. In 2005 it received 7,330 refugees and 602 asylum-seekers with the vast number coming from Sierra Leone. UNHCR closed its liaison office (LO) in December 2001 because of budget cuts, altered priorities, and the desire to shift responsibility for the programme directly to the implementing partners.

Following the closure of bureau in Gambia, BO Dakar in Senegal assumed responsibility for management and oversight of all activities related either to the protection of or assistance to the refugee population in the Gambia. The supervision by BO Dakar was said to allow for a more regional focus, harmonizing approaches and procedures with countries hosting the same populations of refugees. 12 BO Dakar continued to work with the established “troika” of partner organizations in the Gambia. The idea was to promote co-operation and accountability as well as build capacity, without the high financial costs associated with the presence of an in country office. This framework was maintained until early 2003 when the decision to reinstate LO Gambia was taken, resulting in LO Gambia being reopened in May 2003.

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Anglican Mission Development Ministry (AMDM) is a faith-based organization implementing three projects: assistance to Sierra Leonean refugees in Basse refugee camp; a Primary/Vocational Education Programme: and an Urban Refugee Programme in Banjul. Prior to involvement with UNHCR, AMDM was involved in refugee-related issues through their programme for the “church of the stranger”, which took a holistic and advocacy approach on behalf of all uprooted people.

With its head office based in Banjul it receives approximately 75% of its funding from UNHCR. The remaining portion of funding comes from the World Council of Churches, a consortium of churches known worldwide for focusing on helping uprooted people.

In general, the Gambian Government has adopted a policy whereby they allow for the refugees to enter the country and wait for a durable solution to their plight. The 1951 Convention and the 1967 protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention govern these practices.9 As a member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)10, the Gambia abides by laws that grant economic rights, or the right to work, to nationals of other ECOWAS states. However, in order to move freely and work, refugees must possess a residence permit. The law requiring work permits that applies to the refugees is the same law that is applied to all non-Gambians who seek employment in the Gambia.

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The exact number of refugees residing in the Gambia is not known. The main reason is that the large urban population is largely unaccounted for. Another reason is the permeability of the Gambia – Senegal border (near the Casamance region) where thousands of asylum-seekers are said to be living in fear of claiming refugee status. UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 12,000 refugees living throughout the Gambia.7 Other sources give estimates ranging from 10,000 to over 30,000 persons. The refugee population consists of Sierra Leoneans who are in the majority, Senegalese who are the second highest in number, Liberians, Somalis, Ethiopians, Rwandans, Iraqis and Eritrean, the latter five groups being a very small portion of the population. The major influx of refugees began in 1982 with the rising conflicts in West Africa, especially in the Casamance region. This area has been the scene of clashes between the government and separatist rebels. Fighting in Sierra Leone and most recently Liberia has also significantly contributed to the rise in the refugee population.

The situation and sentiments of refugees, UNHCR and its implementing partners suggest that the livelihood security of refugees living in the Gambia is being threatened in both urban and rural refugee settings. A shift in emphasis from care and maintenance to self-reliance would make refugee livelihoods more secure. As the Gambia abides by the Geneva Conventions and continues to pursue durable solutions for the rising number of refugees, UNHCR has an increased role to play in assisting them.

Source: UNHCR

The country ratified the:
Convention on 07 Sep 1966
Protocol on 29 Sep 1967

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