Senegalese refugees indicated that they would only return to Senegal when the conflict is resolved in Casamance. Consequently, local integration and resettlement are the most viable durable solutions. Both countries of asylum provide favorable frameworks and environment for local integration through alternative legal status and naturalization
In Guinea-Bissau, the Government gave blanket naturalization to all Senegalese refugees by signing the “Declaração oficial da Cláusula de Integração Local Definitiva de Refugiados de Longa Duração” in December
2017 and reduced the administrative fees by 80% (to FCFA 150,000 / person). Additionally, all 582 refugees under 14, who never had any identity documents, received birth certificates in 2018.
In the Gambia, the authorities have agreed to include the years spent as a refugee towards the total time required to meet the criteria for naturalization and to prolong the validity of a residence permit from one year to 5 years for all refugees. For Senegalese refugees, the authorities cut the processing fee for residence permits by 80% to GMD 200 and eliminated the tax requirement.
In Guinea-Bissau, the Government started the naturalization process for all Senegalese refugees. In the Gambia, UNHCR is encouraging refugees opting to locally integrate to start the process. UNHCR continues to advocate for the local authorities to issue certificates of land ownership to refugees.
Way Forward By the end of 2018, the Government of Guinea-Bissau will start issuing national ID cards to naturalized refugees, followed by the issuance of the citizenship certificates. In the Gambia, the sensitization and advocacy will continue.
Since 1982, there has been waves of Senegalese from Casamance fleeing caused by a “low-intensity” conflict between the Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance and the Government. The refugees share ethnic, cultural, and linguistic affinities with the local population. The openness of host communities, favorable protection environments and positive attitudes of the local authorities, as well as geographical proximity, facilitated a smooth integration of refugees in the countries of asylum.