Senegal Multi-Country Office


Operation: Opération: Senegal Multi-Country Office



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Key figures

2020 year-end results
1,771 of women and girls received sanitary materials in Guinea
700 refugees received production kits and other support for their agriculture/ livestock/ fisheries activities in The Gambia
300 people of concern were assisted with civil status registration or documentation in Senegal
300 people of concern were trained in Guinea Bissau on gender-based violence prevention and response
177 people of concern were assisted in Togo in the process of their naturalization
40 peaceful coexistence projects were promoted in Guinea Bissau
2021 planning figures
3,000 refugees will benefit from the Senegal national health insurance scheme
500 refugee children born in Togo, Guinee or Guinee-Bissau will be registered in the civil status offices
450 refugee children in primary and secondary schools will be provided with cash assistance to support the enrollment 
392 refugees in Sierra Leone will be assisted to obtain residence and work permits and be included in the national social security scheme
130 refugees will be naturalized in Senegal
103 refugees will obtain long-term residence permits in the Gambia
27% of refugees in Guinea will benefit from agricultural and other income-generating activities

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2019 44,510
2018 46,443


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Senegal Multi-Country Office

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  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

The overall situation in countries covered by UNHCR’s multi-country office (MCO) in Senegal was one of relative political stability and economic security. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as situations of insecurity and violence within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had a significant impact.

Most refugees residing in MCO countries continued to live in situations of protracted displacement and experienced poverty rates on par with host communities. However COVID-19-related lockdowns and border closures severely affected UNHCR’s ability to foster comprehensive durable solutions and support refugees inclusion in national structures (a central objective of UNHCR’s work in this area). Limited livelihood opportunities, particularly in rural areas for both refugees and host communities, were also compounded by political instability in some countries.

UNHCR’s ability to conduct field monitoring visits, engage directly with communities, and offer counselling and capacity-building activities were particularly affected by COVID-19-related restrictions. In coordination with UN sister agencies, Governments and key partners, UNHCR stepped up its COVID-19 response by redirecting funds, mainstreaming COVID-19 prevention and response activities into existing programmes, promoting the inclusion of refugees in national response and vaccination plans, and mobilizing additional resources dedicated to refugee inclusion. UNHCR and partners adjusted their processes including remote assistance and community-based support to pursue core protection activities such as registration, child protection, community-based protection, peaceful co-existence with communities, gender-based violence prevention and response, refugee status determination (RSD), border monitoring, shelter, legal assistance, education and statelessness.

While the 2020 elections in Guinea Bissau brought about a smooth political transition, the post-electoral situation in Côte d’Ivoire required UNHCR to develop displacement contingency plans for Togo and Guinea, in coordination with national authorities and partners.
Mixed movements along the West African coast, saw thousands risking their lives in the high seas by undertaking dangerous journeys across the Atlantic towards the Canary Islands. Against this backdrop UNHCR raised awareness about mixed movements among national authorities and responded to the protection needs of people of concern to UNHCR traveling in mixed movements. UNHCR also expanded its network of UN and NGO partners to address some of the protection risks linked to mixed movements. In this vein, UNHCR strengthened its partnership with IOM in Senegal and with the Directorate for Senegalese abroad.

A critical priority for UNHCR in light of the pandemic was to ensure the MCO’s operational functionality by setting up structures to work remotely and cover all countries under its responsibility. Against this backdrop, the MCO successfully set up its new physical premise, staffing structure, and its renewed contacts with relevant authorities and partners to ensure effective operational coverage in all countries under its purview.

Population trends

In 2020, UNHCR assisted 46,044 people of concern, including 39,175 refugees and 6,869 asylum-seekers spread across the following countries: Benin (1,879); The Gambia (4,594); Guinea (9,582); Guinea Bissau (1,888); Sierra Leone (342); Senegal (16,285); and Togo (11,474). Of the total population, 42% (19,367) were below the age of 18 while women accounted for 51% (23,638) of the total population. 52% (24,346) were aged between 18 to 59 and elderly persons above the age of 60 years accounted for only 6%.

In all the eight countries covered by the MCO, the overall number of refugees and asylum-seekers remained stable, with the exception of Guinea which saw an increase of 16% compared to 2019 due to the political and security situation as a result of the Presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire. Senegal (126) and Togo (96) are the only other two countries where new asylum applications were registered in 2020.

In the eight countries covered by the MCO, refugees lived both in urban and rural areas.

Key achievements

  • In Senegal, UNHCR’s Government counterpart, the National Committee for the Management of Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons, advocated for refugee and asylum-seeker inclusion (16,285 people) in social and economic resilience measures taken by the Government. Measures included the distribution of food for vulnerable households, the payment of electricity and water bills, and other types of support.
  • UNHCR responded swiftly and efficiently to emergencies in the region. In Guinea, UNHCR detected the presence, through protection monitoring, of almost 500 asylum-seekers following the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, mostly in the rural/forest areas of Nzerekore. The Office also supported Government efforts to safeguard humanitarian access and help those in need access asylum systems, while also enabling repatriation. Moreover, UNHCR led the protection sector’s emergency preparation and response in Guinea in anticipation of internal displacement following the Presidential elections that took place in October.
  • In Guinea Bissau, UNHCR in partnership with UNICEF and UNDP, and the UN Country Team, and with the support of the Red Cross volunteers, raised awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and associated prevention measures. This outreach covered more than 75,000 refugees and host communities alike, covering more than 95 villages and towns across Guinea Bissau.
  • UNHCR continued to seek opportunities to secure additional funding. In Senegal, additional resources were mobilized by setting up a Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to support Government efforts to strengthen and deploy home-based/distance learning solutions to children and youth (including refugees) out-of-school due to COVID-19. 

Unmet needs

With the operation funded at 68% by the end of 2020, budgetary constraints limited the capacity to undertake certain activities.
  • Due to limited resources, UNHCR could not initiate its local integration strategy comprehensively. Socio-economic support by investing in community infrastructures, securing agricultural land and housing, as well as supporting host communities was also constrained because of lack of funding.
  • In the context of mixed movements, lack of sufficient resources (limited presence and access along the mixed migratory routes) and limited implementation capacity prevented UNHCR from strengthening protection activities along the routes covered by the MCO.
  • Despite the pledges received through the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness, advocacy efforts were hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts will continue in 2021.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

Flexible funding enabled UNHCR to support the Government of Senegal’s COVID-19 strategy, including by providing medical equipment to eight isolation sites and an ambulance in the region of Matam; medical intensive care equipment for the region of Podor; the construction of four isolation sites in Dagana, Podor Kanel and Zinguinchor; as well as strengthening communication, information and awareness in refugee settlements. Moreover, as part of a joint initiative, UNHCR, IOM and WHO supported the Government of Senegal in border control/monitoring in the face of COVID-19.

Working environment

The national institutional protection frameworks for refugees are overall favourable in the countries covered by UNHCR’s multi-country office in Senegal, although significant gaps remain. All eight countries are party to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and national instruments have been developed for the domestication of these conventions. While many of the 1951 Convention provisions have been incorporated into the national legislations, the legislative framework in the countries - except for in Guinea and Togo - does not meet international standards.  A comprehensive review of the national legislations will continue to be carried out.
Dedicated Refugee Status Determination institutions have been established in all countries covered by the Office and they have effectively responded to situations of sudden influx and granted prima facie status to refugees fleeing political crises and armed conflict. However, national institutions responsible for individual status determination procedures remain hindered by inadequate funding and frequent staff turnover in government RSD institutions. Procedural bottlenecks, weaknesses in institutional set-ups and case-management, that is not in accordance with SOPs, have led to the accumulation of backlogs and secondary movements of asylum-seekers.
The security environment and the rising threat of terrorism and violent extremist groups in West Africa can hinder access to asylum with tightened security and border controls. Asylum-seekers in the region have limited access to information about RSD procedures, and limited legal counselling and psychosocial assistance is available only in a few countries, such as Benin and Gambia. In line with the Refugee Coordination Model, together with Governments, UNHCR will lead the Inter-Agency coordination of emergency preparedness for refugee emergencies, where there is a medium to high risk for new refugee influx (e.g. in Benin, Guinea Bissau and Togo). This includes the development and update of minimum and advanced emergency preparedness actions such as inter-agency contingency plans. 
There are no major IDP situations in the concerned countries for the time being, but UNHCR will participate in the inter-agency risk analysis and development of emergency preparedness measures, in preparation of an IDP situation due to natural disaster. Concerning the coordination of mixed movements, UNHCR will advocate for the application of the OCHA-UNHCR Joint Note on Mixed Situations, where feasible.
UNHCR is engaged with the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, a tool now used by the UN to advance SDGs in the region, considering national and regional priorities. UNHCR is a member of the Task Force on renewable energy. UNHCR is also a core member of the Regional UNDG for West and Central Africa, leading its Quality Assurance and Advice-Peer Support Group, which provides technical support to countries on their UNDAF development processes.
UNHCR will increase efforts to benefit from the UN pool funds such as the UNDAF, Humanitarian Response Plans (where applicable) and other initiatives in the region. UNHCR will also focus on the promotion of durable solutions for refugees with development actors for responsibility and burden-sharing. In order to increase financial and political support for refugees, UNHCR will engage regional bodies, such as ECOWAS and the African Union, donors and celebrities to bring refugees on the regional and global agenda. UNHCR will also expand its partnerships with the private sector, in particular with financial institutions.

Key priorities

While only Senegal was a pilot country for the MYMP Strategy, the strategy will be adopted by the other countries (excluding Cape Verde) over of the next three years. With the lessons learned and best practices from the case of Senegal, the strategy for the six countries will aim at:
  • Improving and establishing a sound, fair and effective asylum system in line with international standards;
  • Enhancing the economic inclusion and livelihood of refugees, asylum-seekers, returnees and host communities through a better access to national services such as health, education, housing, etc;
  • Durable solutions for people of concern namely through voluntary repatriation, resettlement and local integration; 
  • Establishing of strong partnerships and mobilization of stakeholders for advocacy, communication and coordination necessary for a successful implementation of the strategy.
Operation-specific results for 2020 include:
Repatriation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Benin in 2020; the favourable security situation in Côte d'Ivoire and in Bangui in the Central African Republic allows for a voluntary return to which most refugees from these countries do not adhere.  Country-of-origin information will be shared to encourage them to repatriate voluntarily in a dignified and safe manner.
In the Gambia, local integration remains a viable option for Senegalese refugees. During the last verification exercise, the intention survey indicated willingness of many refugee households to integrate locally in the Gambia through the long-term residence status and naturalization. However, challenges confronting this option are that many refugees lack their country of origin nationality documents, such as birth certificates, passports and ID cards. The available durable solution options for them for the time being are local integration and resettlement.
In Guinea Bissau, UNHCR will continue to monitor activities implemented in communities where the 2019 naturalised refugees are residing. Activities will include promotion of coexistence projects with development actors, government, private sector and other stakeholders. The situation of people of concern is monitored through monthly coordination meetings with refugees, which helps to discuss implementation progress, achievements and challenges, and when necessary, change the plan of activity. Furthermore, assistance will be provided to the remaining case load of refugees, and capacity will be transferred gradually to government counterparts.
In Guinea, repatriation of some Ivorian refugees and resettlement to a third country will take place in 2020. In alignment with the roadmap for the voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees, adopted in December 2018, several activities, including come-and-tell and go-and-see visits, profiling and intention gathering, verification, documentation, and increasing the cash grant to $300 (adult and children) will be carried out to enable those who so wish to return to safety and dignity in Côte d'Ivoire.

In Senegal, UNHCR will concentrate on repatriation, resettlement, delivery of residence permit, and naturalization of refugees (in particular refugees from Mauritania). . In Sierra Leone, UNHCR will concentrate on locally integrating and mainstreaming some refugees into the national programme. Effective local integration of the residual caseload of refugees will be the focus of the Government in 2020 in close collaboration with The National Commission for Social Action.

In Togo, UNHCR will undertake repatriation, resettlement and naturalization activities.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 22-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • Japan

    private donors

  • 18-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Romania
  • Qatar
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2021
  • 11-NOV-2021
  • Angola
  • 09-NOV-2021
  • 08-NOV-2021
  • Hungary