West Africa

Operational information on the West Africa subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries: 

| Benin | Burkina Faso | Cabo Verde | Côte d’Ivoire | Gambia (the) | Ghana | Guinea | Guinea-Bissau | Liberia | Mali | Niger | Nigeria | Senegal | Sierra Leone| Togo |   


Subregion: West Africa


Latest update of camps and office locations 21  Nov  2016. By clicking on the icons on the map, additional information is displayed.

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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion West Africa

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2016 {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016],"budget":[257.72904354,284.14940499,273.248311355,292.846334371,273.229858397],"expenditure":[140.80799829,154.60532666,135.78110033,122.94985885,129.67137704]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016],"p1":[208.03175836,245.22858108,205.830081875,229.700946219,184.51141581],"p2":[4.46622329,2.391416,3.83601618,5.92538567,8.50740967],"p3":[24.13236217,6.51146826,9.32947275,18.671615912,37.016635417],"p4":[21.09869972,30.01793965,54.25274055,38.54838657,43.1943975]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016],"p1":[113.20969449,132.96277402,118.99389722,99.31289964,92.52541498],"p2":[1.42116087,1.52248886,2.13033718,3.24029389,4.35927543],"p3":[17.26631744,3.20584556,4.1636139,6.17672818,8.83352232],"p4":[8.91082549,16.91421822,10.49325203,14.21993714,23.95316431]}
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People of Concern - 2016

[["Refugees",300616],["Asylum-seekers",7004],["IDPs",2377353],["Returned IDPs",725892],["Returned refugees",29318],["Stateless",694115],["Others of concern",16275]]
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Response in 2016

UNHCR’s response in West Africa remained driven by two major displacement crises triggered by conflict and violence in Mali and Nigeria. The deterioration of the security environment in northern and central Mali and the slow implementation of the peace agreement continued to displace people within Mali and to neighbouring countries, prompting UNHCR to scale-up development-oriented programmes to promote refugee self-reliance. As the depth and complexity of protection issues affecting civilians in North-East Nigeria became more apparent, UNHCR declared an internal Level-3 emergency. While violence continued to escalate with insurgents attacking civilians, close to 200,000 Nigerian refugees fled across borders, while nearly one million people in the four affected countries were forcibly displaced within their own country.

The protection landscape in the sub-region continued to be largely favourable, despite growing concerns over shrinking asylum space, mainly due to measures taken by some governments to address national security threats. Of particular concern in the sub-region were the protection challenges associated with the forced return of Nigerian refugees.  In June 2016, a ministerial protection dialogue organised by UNHCR and hosted by the Government of Nigeria to tackle the worrying increase in protection incidents, including cases of refoulement. Governments of the four Lake Chad Basin countries (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) agreed upon actions aimed at enhancing protection and outlined a roadmap for potential solutions to displacement in the region.

In addition to regional efforts led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including through its Protocol on Free Movement of People, Residence and Establishment, several States took concrete steps towards addressing the risk of statelessness. In Côte d’Ivoire, an estimated 3,500 stateless people acquired nationality in 2016, and the processing of applications continued. Under the auspices of the 2015 Abidjan Declaration on the eradication of statelessness, new national action plans on statelessness were under development in a number of West African countries, including Nigeria and Togo. The Government of Burkina Faso worked with UNHCR to implement a project for undocumented nationals living in Côte d’Ivoire who were at risk of becoming stateless. Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Sierra Leone acceded to both the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless People and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

The mixed movement of refugees and migrants remained a challenging phenomenon to monitor in Sub-Saharan Africa, with one of the main routes in the continent extending from West Africa towards Europe. In particular, Niger has become a major hub for migratory movements northwards towards Algeria, Libya and then Europe. Due to its geographical position and the deteriorating security environment in neighbouring countries (Libya, Mali and Nigeria), Niger is a key country in the management of migration flows in West Africa whilst striving to address the challenges related to it. 
Mobilising and securing funding for UNHCR operations in West Africa appeared to be challenging in light of high profile emergencies and shifting donor priorities. Throughout 2016, the sub-region included several of the most underfunded operations, all of which were funded at less than 45 per cent of their funding requirements, adversely affecting UNHCR’s people of concern in the sub-region.


The majority of UNHCR’s beneficiaries in West Africa were internally displaced people and refugees. In many countries, legal solutions were sometimes hampered by the unavailability of updated and reliable profiling data, limited capacity of national status determination institutions and lengthy procedures to access naturalization or alternative status. Moreover, the difficult socio-economic context faced by many countries in the sub-region also limited employment and livelihood opportunities in favor of displaced populations.

At the end of 2016, Benin hosted 617 Central African and 165 Ivorian refugees, representing a 50 per cent increase compared to figures from 2015. During the year, 331 new asylum applications were registered in ProGres, a database UNHCR shared with the Commission nationale d’assistance aux réfugiés (CNAR) and which includes information of all refugees. UNHCR organized 44 eligibility sessions with 379 people recognized as refugees and 33 people whose asylum applications were rejected. Asylum seekers and refugees were able to benefit from the legal and judicial support of the clinicians. However, because of limited funding, UNHCR was neither able to pay health insurance contributions for some vulnerable refugees nor able to provide appropriate housing support to single women with large families.

The Gambia hosted almost 8,000 refugees, of which 95 per cent were from Senegal. UNHCR assisted people of concern through refugee status determination and ensuring their right to freedom of movement and access to documentation and basic social services. Through sustained advocacy efforts, UNHCR successfully negotiated, on behalf of refugees, the waiving of the expatriate tax levied on employers, thus opening up additional employment opportunities for refugees. In addition, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between UNHCR and Gambian health authorities enabled refugees to access health care services with the same ease as nationals. Furthermore, during the year, 80 per cent of the refugees benefited from livelihoods support and are gradually moving towards self-reliance. Some of the challenges that UNHCR faced included limited donor presence in the country to support refugee projects as well as weak national social structures and services to support successful refugee integration.

At the end of 2016, Guinea-Bissau hosted 8,700 refugees, 99 per cent of whom were from Senegal. UNHCR’s strategy focused on the development of a local integration solution that includes the naturalization of refugees willing to acquire Guinean nationality through the naturalization process as well as the formalization of land ownership for refugees. Whilst the Council of Ministers approved 15 cases of Senegalese refugees to be naturalised, there are still 545 files pending analysis and approval for the same purpose. A significant challenge in this process, however, is the large amount of money requested for the naturalization of eligible refugees. Because of funding constraints, UNHCR had to prioritize some areas of interventions, leaving water, hygiene and sanitation activities, and education with gaps.

Senegal was home to some 14,600 refugees, the vast majority of whom were from Mauritania. Out of 313 registered refugee applications, a total of 129 cases were examined by the Commission nationale d’éligibilité (CNE), therefore fully meeting UNHCR’s target for 2016. Senegal was selected as one of the nine pilot countries to implement a multi-partner, multi-year protection and solutions strategy starting in 2017. The focus of the strategy is on local integration through naturalization or permanent residence for all protracted refugees by 2019. UNHCR’s country office in Senegal faced some challenges related to protection and durable solutions, including:
  • a lack of commitmentin granting options for durable solutions which delayed the completion of the last phase of the verification/profiling exercise;
  • the delay in processing asylum applications within the Commission nationale d’éligibilité;
  • the lack of machine-readable 1954 Convention travel documents hindering refugees’ movements within the country.
In addition, UNHCR was unable to finalize the verification/profiling exercise because of a lack of clear commitment from the authorities. Therefore, many refugees have not yet benefitted for this exercise, leaving some 5,500 refugees at risk of becoming stateless.
In Sierra Leone, UNHCR supported 783 refugees, including 654 from Liberia, 21 from Côte d’Ivoire, and 8 from Sudan. Following the significant reduction of the refugee population in Sierra Leone since June 2012, UNHCR’s operational scope has focused mainly on advocacy and capacity-building of relevant Government counterparts, civil society organizations and the academia. UNHCR also provided livelihoods support to exempted Liberian refugees and other nationals. In 2016, some key achievements include Sierra Leone’s accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless People and the 1961 Convention relating to the Reduction of Stateless People; as well as the revision of the draft bill for the reform of the 2007 Refugee Protection Act. In this regard, a two-day workshop was conducted with a focus on three objectives: reinforce awareness on gaps, highlight the need for reform, and validate proposed provisions for amendment to the 2007 Refugees’ Protection Act. Other key achievements include the provision of livelihoods support to the 90 vulnerable households through agriculture and cash-based transfers and; the issuance of identity documents by the National Registration Secretariat with UNHCR’ support to 432 refugees out of a total of 632 targeted. Limited funding did not allow the Office to provide assistance   to children and people with specific needs.

In December 2016, there were some 12,500 refugees and just under 800 asylum seekers in Togo, mainly from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, representing a significant decrease compared to the 21,900 refugees registered in 2015. In March, the National Assembly adopted a new law on the status of refugees, which significantly improves asylum procedures. In addition, the verification/profiling exercise conducted by UNHCR between April and August indicated that there are some 9,600 Ghanaian in Togo. During the year, 46 refugees were repatriated, including 36 Ivorians, 5 Malians and 5 Congolese, while 95 refugees were resettled to the United States and Canada. As Ghanaians are not formally recognized by the Government, UNHCR continued to advocate for the naturalization of the 98 per cent of this population who chose this option. In the meantime, UNHCR continued to carry out self-reliance and livelihoods activities, focusing on facilitating access to employment and training opportunities. In addition, the two-year project to support the economic empowerment of 250 refugees and 350 members of host communities through agro-pastoral activities was launched by UNHCR. The issuance of refugees’ ID cards faced some challenges due technical problems with the printers of responsible authorities.
911 Number of personnel (international and national)
43 Number of offices
1.9 MIO. Estimated number of people of concern (PoC)
USD 260.4 MIO. Overall funding requirements (ExCom-approved 2016 budget)

Operational Environment and Strategy

In addition to hosting many protracted refugee situations, countries in the subregion continue to face challenges relating to slow economic growth and volatile socio-political conditions.
In 2016, presidential elections are due to be held in Benin, Cabo Verde, the Gambia and Ghana. There are concerns that in some cases the elections could trigger social unrest and forced displacement. Challenging economic conditions will also continue to affect displacement trends. For Senegalese refugees in the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, weak governance continues to create challenges for local integration. For other groups, such as Mauritanian refugees in Senegal and Ghanaian refugees in northern Togo, durable solutions remain out of reach. With the ongoing insecurity resulting from the Central African Republic and Nigeria situations, governments will need more support to meet the needs of asylum-seekers and refugees in the subregion.
All countries in West Africa, except Cabo Verde, have adopted legislation on asylum. However, in some instances, the legislative frameworks and the quality and standards of asylum procedures present significant gaps. The lack of resources and high turnover of staff render capacity-building challenging, leading to lengthy asylum procedures and backlogs. These backlogs have a deterrent effect that often cause asylum-seekers to move onwards. Asylum-seekers and refugees also generally lack access to legal aid and counselling, or to psychosocial support, and are not assisted by interpreters. UNHCR continues to undertake activities to improve standards in legislation and national asylum procedures; facilitate the provision of information and free legal assistance to people of concern; and increase capacity-building efforts and support to institutions involved in refugee status determination (RSD).
In 2016, UNHCR will continue to explore new options to enable refugees to enjoy their asylum rights while supporting their economic self-sufficiency. This approach, which relies on the political will of governments, has helped achieve solutions, including to the situation of Togolese and other refugees in Benin through the granting of a “privileged residence permit.” In addition, resettlement will be used strategically, including as a protection tool whenever possible. It is important that resettlement be an integral part of comprehensive solutions.
While some populations in West Africa are facing an increasing risk of statelessness, countries in the region generally require further support to address this issue. Based on government figures, UNHCR data and country-specific reports, the Office estimates that currently, at least 1 million people are stateless in West Africa. At present, only Côte d’Ivoire has been providing statistical information; none of the other 14 countries report on statelessness, in large part due to a lack of procedures and mechanisms to systematically collect information. Consequently, UNHCR considers that the current estimates do not reflect the full scope of the statelessness problem in West Africa and it is believed that numbers are in fact considerably higher. Factors contributing to statelessness are manifold and affect all countries across the region. Among the populations at heightened risk of statelessness are people without birth certificates or other forms of identity documentation, abandoned children and undocumented stranded migrants, including their children.

In 2016, UNHCR will be working with governments in West Africa to implement the political commitments made in the Abidjan Declaration that was adopted at the regional ministerial conference in Abidjan on 25 February 2015, and endorsed by heads of State. This Declaration sets the foundation for the goal to end statelessness by 2024 in the ECOWAS region. In 2016, UNHCR will support countries in the subregion with the implementation of their national action plans, including the mapping of stateless populations, the reform of nationality legislation, and the improvement of birth registration systems.

Response and Implementation

Operations in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Niger are presented separately. For other countries where UNHCR operates in the subregion, please see below.

In 2016, UNHCR in Benin will focus on strengthening and consolidating the asylum system, in collaboration with the Government. In the area of self-sufficiency, UNHCR will support micro-enterprises, access to microfinance, vocational and technical training, and advocate for the right to work. UNHCR will seek to ensure that people of concern have access to basic services including education, healthcare and medical insurance, and that they are included within national domestic services.
In the Gambia, UNHCR will continue to support the local integration of Senegalese refugees in rural areas through the pursuit of legal solutions and support for self-reliance, while a range of solutions strategies (voluntary return, resettlement and local integration) will be utilized in response to the needs of urban refugees of other nationalities.
In Ghana, UNHCR will advocate for equal access to national healthcare and education services, as well as State protection services, for all refugees hosted in the country. UNHCR will seek to ensure that each refugee household has a solid livelihood asset base (livelihoods capital) to enable their self-reliance.
Refugees in a protracted situation who are willing to remain in Ghana will be given an alternative legal status, through the provision of individual documentation. UNHCR will work to develop a livelihoods and protection-oriented approach to address the situation of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers.
In Guinea, the priority will be to focus on strengthening and improving refugees’ livelihoods and self-sufficiency to prepare them for voluntary repatriation and local integration programmes. As part of the multisectoral assistance programme, UNHCR will facilitate voluntary repatriation operations and the launch of the local integration programme.
In Guinea-Bissau, UNHCR will be supporting the naturalization of some 1,000 refugees in 2016 and ensuring that applications for land allocation are submitted and approved. These measures will ensure former refugees are able to fully enjoy citizenship rights such as the right to vote. UNHCR will seek permanent solutions for Senegalese refugees living in rural areas of the country with an emphasis on local integration; and it will work with Government partners to finalize naturalization applications, while supporting the socio-economic integration of refugees through livelihoods and community mobilization.

In Nigeria, UNHCR will prioritize efforts to sustain progress in the area of protection through results-oriented engagement with State authorities and other stakeholders. The objective will be to ensure that people of concern can safely access asylum; and that their applications are fairly and expeditiously processed in accordance with relevant international standards. UNHCR will also carry out awareness-raising campaigns among refugees and asylum-seekers on SGBV prevention and response. The operation will continue to provide support to people with specific needs in the form of livelihoods, temporary shelter and referrals for psychosocial assistance. UNHCR will also provide non-food items, cash grants, temporary caregiving arrangements, referrals for resettlement and facilitation of family reunification. Measures to improve hygiene conditions in refugee hosting areas will continue. These will include provision of sanitary materials for all female refugees of child-bearing age and awareness-raising on personal hygiene.

Senegal will begin the naturalization process for 6,040 people of concern, while resident permits will be provided to 1,825 refugees. The voluntary return of 3,135 refugees will also be pursued in coordination with the Mauritanian Government.
In Sierra Leone, UNHCR will continue to ensure the protection of residual refugee populations, working with Government partners to identify and implement durable solutions strategies with an emphasis on the local integration of Liberians and refugees of other nationalities.
In Togo, UNHCR will continue to support protection and solutions for urban and rural refugees. Rural activities will focus on supporting the local integration of Ghanaian refugees, while urban programmes will pursue a range of solutions (local integration, voluntary repatriation and resettlement) for Ivorian refugees and refugees and asylum-seekers of various other nationalities. 

2016 Budget and Expenditure in West Africa | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Burkina Faso Budget
Côte d'Ivoire Budget
Ghana Budget
Guinea Budget
Liberia Budget
Mali Budget
Niger Budget
Nigeria Budget
Senegal Regional Office Budget
Total Budget

2016 Voluntary Contributions to West Africa | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
West Africa overall
Canada 00001,123,596 1,123,596
France 00001,200,000 1,200,000
Germany 000015,264,222 15,264,222
Liechtenstein 0000101,420 101,420
Philippines 5,0000000 5,000
Private donors in Australia 000023,671 23,671
Private donors in Canada 00001,195 1,195
Private donors in France 00001,093 1,093
Private donors in Spain 00005,888 5,888
Republic of Korea 0000500,000 500,000
Sweden 00002,402,296 2,402,296
Switzerland 1,524,3900000 1,524,390
United States of America 000017,000,000 17,000,000
West Africa overall subtotal 1,529,39000037,623,380 39,152,770
Burkina Faso
Denmark 110,0000000 110,000
European Union 563,6980000 563,698
France 283,4470000 283,447
Japan 1,500,0000000 1,500,000
Private donors in Australia 439,8110000 439,811
Private donors in Japan 313,8750000 313,875
Private donors in the Netherlands 2,591,8700000 2,591,870
Private donors in the United States of America 87,75000024,271 112,021
Burkina Faso subtotal 5,890,45000024,271 5,914,721
Côte d'Ivoire
Denmark 2,147,092202,079176,81900 2,525,990
Private donors in Germany 113,3790000 113,379
UN Peacebuilding Fund 0100,962000 100,962
United States of America 00005,800,000 5,800,000
Côte d'Ivoire subtotal 2,260,471303,041176,81905,800,000 8,540,331
Denmark 294,0000000 294,000
Private donors in Spain 0000226,758 226,758
UNAIDS 000074,900 74,900
United States of America 112,0810000 112,081
Ghana subtotal 406,081000301,658 707,739
Denmark 370,2840000 370,284
Guinea subtotal 370,2840000 370,284
Denmark 1,683,9940000 1,683,994
Private donors in Japan 532,2500000 532,250
UNAIDS 000026,750 26,750
Liberia subtotal 2,216,24300026,750 2,242,993
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 575,00001,050,01000 1,625,010
Private donors in Italy 000011 11
Switzerland 0000508,130 508,130
UN Peacebuilding Fund 00272,31500 272,315
Mali subtotal 575,00001,322,3250508,141 2,405,466
Canada 0000599,251 599,251
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 547,3050000 547,305
Denmark 1,000,0000000 1,000,000
European Union 4,825,9030000 4,825,903
France 850,3400000 850,340
Italy 845,8350000 845,835
Japan 3,000,0000000 3,000,000
Private donors in Japan 144,3000000 144,300
Private donors in the United States of America 112,5000000 112,500
Spain 837,9890000 837,989
Switzerland 0000508,130 508,130
UN Peacebuilding Fund 331,3910000 331,391
United States of America 00009,500,000 9,500,000
Niger subtotal 12,495,56300010,607,381 23,102,944
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 00422,9413,227,3420 3,650,283
Italy 000566,8930 566,893
Luxembourg 0000549,451 549,451
Nigeria 000063,735 63,735
Private donors in Spain 0000986 986
United States of America 00008,700,000 8,700,000
Nigeria subtotal 00422,9413,794,2359,314,172 13,531,348
Senegal Regional Office
Denmark 884,7950000 884,795
Private donors in Italy 0000167 167
UNDP 40,0000000 40,000
Senegal Regional Office subtotal 924,795000167 924,962
Total 26,668,278303,0411,922,0853,794,23564,205,920 96,893,559