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Malian refugees and internally displaced persons have expressed a desire to return to their roots of origin. But since the situation is still volatile in the country, Danish Refugee Council does not encourage returns – but is working hard to ensure the prospects for returning.
More than 500,000 Malians are still displaced following political unrest in the country more than a year ago. More than 300.000 are internally displaced and almost 200,000 are refugees in the neighboring countries. Almost 80 % of the displaced have stated that they would like to return. Among the reasons for this happening now is the upcoming second round of the presidential election, agriculture planting season and re-opening of some schools.
“Search for pasture, preparation for next year, return to school, the upcoming elections, people coming to verify the status of their homes and belongings; there are several reasons why people are gradually would like to move to Mali, “ says Dominique Koffy, DRC Country Director in Mali.
But significant obstacles to voluntary and informed returns remain; such as lack of basic services and local administration in areas of origin, precarious security conditions. The returnees lack sufficient food, need to be helped in rebuilding their homes and restocking their animals. Children will also need conditions in regards of safety, teachers and functional schools for returning to school next year.
“There is often a lack of access for IDPs and refugees to essential information that would allow for informed decision-making on returning. We remain cautious to not engage in activities that may coerce homebound movement while necessary mechanisms are not in place to assure that all returns takes place in safety and dignity,” Dominique Koffy says.
Especially with the elections, it has been a hassle to secure the necessary structures to get the displaced the access to voting. A lot of the efforts should be channeled to work on social cohesion and rebuilding resilience capacities at the community level which has been weakened by the unrest. DRC is working hard to ensure the necessary protection for the people being able to return.
“DRC has been focusing on assure effective protections monitoring in both Burkina Faso and Mali since the beginning of 2013. Monitors have already been reporting key protection concerns and need in both areas of displaced and origin that help to identify, assist and inform the most vulnerable among the affected population,” Dominique Koffy says.
Following an exploratory mission in late December 2012, DRC has managed to open the Mali and Burkina Faso Missions with DANIDA funding. The presence of protection teams in these volatile bordering areas has allowed to gradually gathering relevant information on protection risks in order to elaborate adequate responses for relevant actors, local authorities, UN and other humanitarian actors.