West Africa ship: docking hope in Lagos

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is hopeful that a Swedish-registered ship carrying over 150 Liberian passengers will be able to dock today at Lagos port after a week-long odyssey along the coast of West Africa. On Friday last week, officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) - a regional body - informed UNHCR that Nigeria had agreed to accept the ship and its passengers "on humanitarian grounds." Port authorities in Lagos last night were still trying to find a docking space for the vessel, the Alnar, in the overcrowded port. Under the arrangement, UNHCR and the Nigerian Refugee Commission are expected to be allowed on board after immigration authorities have first visited and spoken to the passengers. The Alnar has been moored off the Nigerian port since Sunday, after nearly four weeks at sea. It left Monrovia, Liberia, on June 1st. It initially stopped in Accra, Ghana, where some Ghanaian and Nigerian passengers were allowed to disembark, but not the Liberians. It then headed for Benin, and Togo, where it was not allowed to approach the coast. During the four-week odyssey, UNHCR made repeated calls for authorities in different West African countries to allow the ship to dock and allow UNHCR staff on board in order to assess the status of the Liberian passengers. UNHCR has also expressed growing concern over the deteriorating conditions on board, amid worrying reports mentioning lack of food, water, and medicines.