Guinea-Bissau committed to addressing the situation of refugees

World Refugee Day was marked on Tuesday, June 20, this year under the theme: "With refugees. Today, more than ever, we must be on the side of refugees”. In Guinea-Bissau, the date was celebrated in S. Domingos in the north of the country where the largest group of refugees who fled the conflict in Casamança several years ago.

23 Jun 2017

Guinea-Bissau committed to addressing the situation of refugees

The National Refugee Commission ensures that the country is committed to regularizing the refugee situation, following the commitment made at the high-level meeting held in Geneva in 2011. "We are currently working on the local integration program for refugees and one of our concerns is the nationalization of refugees, to honor the commitment made by the country since 2011 at a high-level meeting on refugees in Geneva.", said Tibna Sambe Na Wana, coordinator of the National Commission for Refugees.

Guinea-Bissau ratified the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in February 1976, and as a signatory country it has fulfilled its obligation by welcoming refugees from different countries of the subregion, such as Liberia, Ghana, Sara- Leone and Senegal.

The country currently hosts more than 8,000 refugees, of whom 98 per cent are individuals from Casamansa, the southern region of Senegal, between Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, which has been in conflict for more than 30 years with the Government of Senegal, over independence.

Prosper Gomes, a refugee from the neighboring Republic of Senegal, Casamance region, Nhafena village, has lived with refugee status for 26 years. He says he is "grateful to the host country, but he points to the problem of land tenure as one of the great challenges that refugees face."

Ibraima Djalo is Nigerino, has been in the country for ten years. He said he "fled the country in search of better living conditions, and thanks Guinea-Bissau for the welcome, since during those years everyone had no problem with both the authorities and the inhabitants of Gabu."

With the increasing flow of people in movement, for different reasons, it is very common to confuse the terms refugee, migrant and internally displaced, but they make all the difference. Each one lives a completely different situation and needs specific policies that can distinguish them.

The Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Guinea-Bissau, Mamadou Lamine Diop, explains that “a refugee is a person who has left his country for many reasons, including security or for political reasons, and has therefore fled his country Crossing an international border to find themselves in another country of asylum, and enjoy the same rights as any other human being.”

The coordinator of the National Commission for Refugees, reminds us that "we have to be able to distinguish a refugee from an asylum and migrant, even though everything in Guinea-Bissau is mixed, so I think that legislation must be reformed to clearly distinguish those people."