The Gambia: Communal Violence - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRGM013

Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On 15 March 2021, The Gambia Red Cross Society (GRCS) received an alert from the Gambian Immigration Department (GID), concerning the eruption of communal violence in the fishing village of Sanyang, where Senegalese migrants have long settled in, earning a living through fishing. The tensions stem from an incident involving a Senegalese migrant who, accused of stealing, allegedly killed a Gambian man who confronted him. The alleged murderer was later apprehended by the police. The host community reacted to this incident by threatening Senegalese migrants and destroying their properties, assets and fishing boats, resulting in members of the Senegalese community fleeing in successive waves to the nearby coastal village of Batokunku (approximately 10 Km to the North). Some of them made the journey by sea.

The displaced persons are now all sheltered in a nursery school compound in the village, where they are in relative safety but with limited freedom of movement.

As of 22nd March 2021, both the National Disaster Management Agency of The Gambia and GRCS reported that 696 Senegalese migrants and host community members (105 households) are affected by the violence and need urgent support to prevent further damages into their lives and livelihoods. However, these numbers may increase as there is still tension in the host community. The Senegalese are seeking refuge at the school compound in Batokunku with up to 256 persons reportedly sheltering there as of 20 March 2021, while others are hosted in other compounds across the village. In addition to the displaced migrant families, some 400 people from the host community (50 households) are hosting the migrants, dwindling the little available food they had for their families.

The number of affected people is projected to increase, as displaced persons in Batokunku are being joined by family members who were still in Sanyang (mostly women and children). It is also reported that a part of the Senegalese community might be displaced in other areas – Gunjur, Sambouya and Brufut. These locations were visited by the GRCS and the IDPs decided to move to Batokunku to join their relatives in the IDP Camp. In addition, the GRCS reported the risk that tensions between Gambian nationals and communities of Senegalese fishermen may spill over to other coastal locations. The GRCS enjoys unimpeded access and is not directly targeted.

According to local rumours, Gambian law enforcement actors may conduct a large-scale operation to arrest those who took part in the violence, and local youth in Sanyang and other nearby locations may organise protests. An unspecified number of local youths have reportedly already been apprehended by the Police. A meeting between the Sanyang village elders, village development committee, the NAM (Member of Parliament) of Kombo South and representatives of the Senegalese community was held on 19 March 2021 with a common message for peace and reconciliation and for the Senegalese to return to Sanyang. No decision has yet been taken concerning the return.