Nearly 25,000 Mauritanian refugees who had sheltered in Senegal for two decades after fleeing violence in 1989, have returned home since 2008, but despite extensive efforts to resettle them in their original villages many lack ID papers and/or access to their old farmland.
Tens of thousands of black Mauritanians fled ethnic killings carried out by security forces in the early 1990s. Some fled to Mali but most to Senegal.
Aliou Moussa So is head of a returnee community of 73 families in PK6 village, 6km from Rosso in southern Mauritania near the Senegalese border. Like most of the returnees, he fled in 1989 and returned in 2008 when the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) started to repatriate refugees.
Most of the returnees were originally from PK6 though when they fled it was called “Wellingara”, loosely meaning “a nice place to visit” in their local language Peulhar.
Moussa So was angry when IRIN spoke to him about his problems. “I can’t recount all the problems I’ve had or we’d end up spending all night. I am sick of answering questions to you people in four-by-fours – that is all that anyone ever does here, they come, ask questions, and do nothing.”
PK6 is a scrappy village with half-built brick rooms scattered around a small shop with half a dozen sacks of cereal for sale, and a few corrugated iron shelters covered in rugs to protect them from the sun.
UNHCR provided the materials to returnees to build 150 brick shelters, but turned to corrugated iron shelters held up by wooden poles when their funding ran out.
The agency’s repatriation exercise ended in March 2012, having repatriated 24,536 refugees and resettled 14,000 in Senegal.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
MAURITANIA: Ex-refugees want land, ID cards