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West Africa ship: individual interviews begin

Briefing Notes, 29 June 2001

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 June 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has begun individual interviews with 156 ex-passengers of the Swedish-registered ship Alnar, which landed in Nigeria on Sunday after a four-week odyssey off the coast of West Africa. At the end of the first day of interviews on Wednesday, indications were that a large number of the passengers most of them Liberians are seeking asylum in Nigeria.

The government of Nigeria agreed on "humanitarian grounds" that the ship could dock in Lagos and indicated it would be willing to grant asylum to its passengers. The passengers, who had left Monrovia on June 1st, had been refused entry in Ghana. The ship then moored off the coast of Benin and later Togo without obtaining authorisation to dock.

Passengers coming off the ship on Tuesday morning received assistance from UNHCR and other relief agencies at the port. They received food and water as well as a package including blankets and kitchen tools. They were all given medical examinations and their overall condition was deemed satisfactory. They were then transported by bus to Oru refugee camp, some 120 km west of Lagos.

Oru already has close to 2,000 refugees, all of them from Sierra Leone. Nigeria is hosting 7,200 refugees, mainly from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Chad. A large number of them are urban refugees living in Lagos. UNHCR in Nigeria is assisting 4,800 of them. The rest have been locally integrated.

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Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

One year after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, violence continues to displace people within Nigeria and to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, including some 22,000 Nigerian refugees. Civilians trapped at home face recurrent attacks by insurgents, with a series of kidnappings and killings culminating in mid-April this year in the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno.

UNHCR's Hélène Caux recently travelled to the region to meet with some of the 250,000 internally displaced, including students caught up in the violence. Those she spoke to told her about their fears, and the atrocities and suffering they had endured or witnessed. People spoke about their homes and fields being destroyed, grenade attacks on markets, the killing of friends and relatives, and arbitrary arrests. Uniting them is an overwhelming sense of terror. Caux found it a challenge to photograph people who live in constant fear of being attacked. "It was this delicate balance to try to achieve between featuring them, communicating their stories and protecting them," she said.

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Niger: Flight from Nigeria
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Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.
Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.