UNHCR: Mali refugees missing from voters registerListen /
With the first round of Mali's presidential elections scheduled for Sunday July 28th, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR is concerned that a large number Malian refugees may not be able to exercise their democratic right.
UNHCR says although 19,000 Malian refugees voluntarily registered to take part in the elections, only about half of the names actually appear on the voters register.
The agency is also worried that the slow issuance of voters' cards may deny refugees the opportunity to cast their ballots.
Adrian Edwards is the UNHCR Spokesperson.
“It is important that the authorities quickly make public the voters' lists and speed distribution of the electoral cards. This is especially important as refugee camps and sites are often located in remote areas, where access can become difficult now that the rainy season now settling in. The Malian authorities have informed us that they are considering alternatives to allow refugees to vote in case of further delays. Our role in the elections is about caring for the rights of refugees by facilitating their participation and ensuring the voluntariness of the electoral process in a safe environment. In June, we conducted formal and informal surveys in major refugee camps. The surveys found that refugees were generally in favor of being included in the elections and that they have good awareness of the situation in Mali. We also found that some believe the elections will help peace and stability which is a precondition for many refugees in deciding whether to return to their country.”
Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria host over 173,000 Malian refugees who fled the country when conflict erupted in January 2012.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.