As thousands of Malians prepare to return home, IDMC warns of a harsh reality

Geneva, 20 February 2013 - A briefing paper released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) raises concerns that the forthcoming return of thousands of internally displaced Malians to their homes in the north, based on a false sense of security, could only lead to more displacement.

Press release: for immediate release

A false sense of security for thousands planning to return

The IDMC briefing paper highlights how the retreat of armed Islamist groups and the takeover of their strongholds by French, Malian and West African troops have signalled a sea of change, with an overwhelming 93 percent of the internally displaced people (IDPs) surveyed eager to return home after more than a year living in displacement. Any perception that it is safe to do so has been perpetuated in some areas by public announcements encouraging IDPs to return home to the north, as well as an overwhelming urge by Malians to return to normalcy. 

A different reality awaits

The briefing paper, however, highlights a very different reality of what people may find once they arrive home. “The military intervention has not cured all evils,” said Elizabeth Rushing, IDMC’s Country Analyst for Mali. “Invisible threats remain with reports of on-going ethnic tensions alongside fears that Islamist militants will regroup in the mountains, where they are believed to have fled, to continue their campaign of guerrilla-style raids and suicide bombings in the north.”

In addition, a severe shortage of food remains an overwhelming concern, as the conflict has exacerbated the chronic food insecurity that has plagued the region for years. Says Rushing, “the desire to go home does not match up with the reality they may find; there is no food, and an undercurrent of tension and instability remains – there are real concerns that premature and uncoordinated return will leave thousands at risk of being displaced again.”

A call for the international community to not ‘drop the ball’ on Mali

IDMC highlighted the need for the international community to act quickly and grasp the opportunity to bring Mali back from the brink.  “Humanitarian actors should take advantage of working in the widening window of opportunity to scale up their activities in central Mali and parts of the north to prepare and coordinate return movements so that it is safe for people to go home and live in peace,” says Rushing.

Unfortunately, the ability of humanitarians and the Malian government to address needs of its citizens is hampered by a serious lack of funding and capacity. Only 3 percent of the estimated funding needed to rebuild the country has been met. “We are at a tipping point,” says Rushing. “There is a real threat that the country will continue to slide down a slippery slope to perpetual chaos if the international community drops the ball on Mali at this crucial crossroads.”

- END - 

Notes to the editor:

  • Nearly 230,000 people were internally displaced in Mali in 2012
  • Of the households surveyed in Bamako and Koulikoro, 93 percent intended to return home to the north; almost 2/3 are simply waiting for reassurance that their home areas are safe enough, and nearly 90 per cent predicted it would be soon, foreshadowing significant numbers of people returning north in the coming months as the bus lines and roads open up. Some are planning their journey around planting and harvest seasons; others will wait until the end of the school year in June.
  • Most IDPs are living in urban or semi-urban settings in the south of the country such as Bamako, Mopti and Segou, where they been hosted or found short-term accommodation. Most will not return right away, so they and the economically and socially strained communities hosting them will continue to require support.
  • Since the onset of military operations in January 2013 and the ensuing ethnic tensions and reprisal attacks, some 16,000 IDPs have fled south from central Mali. More than 6,600 people have also reportedly fled north, reaching the Algerian border, which has been closed.
  • Only 3 percent of the 373 million USD required in the humanitarian consolidated appeal had been funded.

For more information, please contact:

Clare Spurrell

Head of Communications

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
E-Mail: clare.spurrell@nrc.ch
Mobile: 41 79 379 89 52

About IDMC
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is a world leader in the monitoring and analysis of the causes, effects and responses to internal displacement. Through its monitoring and analysis of people internally displaced by conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations, and natural or human-made disasters, IDMC raises awareness and advocates for respect of the rights of at-risk and uprooted peoples.

IDMC is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). For more information, visit our website at www.internal‐displacement.org 

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The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), is the leading international body monitoring internal displacement worldwide.

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Quotes

“We are at a tipping point. There is a real threat that the country will continue to slide down a slippery slope to perpetual chaos if the international community drops the ball on Mali at this crucial crossroads.”
Elizabeth Rushing, IDMC’s Country Analyst for Mali
“The military intervention has not cured all evils. Invisible threats remain with reports of on-going ethnic tensions alongside fears that Islamist militants will regroup in the mountains, where they are believed to have fled, to continue their campaign of Guerrilla-style raids and suicide bombings, particularly in the North where there remains weak governance.”
Elizabeth Rushing, IDMC’s Country Analyst for Mali