Refugee influx from Togo slows dramatically

Briefing Notes, 10 May 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 May 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The refugee influx from Togo into neighbouring Benin and Ghana has slowed dramatically since the weekend, along with signs that in Ghana refugees are beginning to return home. A combined total of some 23,300 refugees have been registered since the post-election outflow began on 26 April. There are 12,483 refugees in Benin and 10,856 in Ghana.

In Ghana, over the last two days, small numbers (18) of new arrivals were recorded at the main Aflao border post. The post is adjacent to the Togolese capital of Lomé. The new arrivals, however, have been significantly outweighed by the numbers of refugees beginning to return home as they feel the situation is calmer. On Monday, some 250 refugees returned to Togo via Aflao, following some 600 refugees who returned to Lomé on Sunday. Many were taking their belongings. Returnees said they'd heard on the radio that Lomé was calm, while others said they wanted to return to work on Monday. Many refugees have been working in Lomé by day and returning to sleep in Ghana overnight, saying they felt more secure. We are currently validating the numbers of returnees against recorded arrivals, and consolidating the refugee numbers. Virtually all refugees in Ghana had found shelter with family and friends.

In contrast, in Benin, there were no returns noted, with refugees saying they were not ready to go back to Togo under the current political situation. However, numbers of arrivals have also slowed, with only 162 new arrivals recorded at the main Hilakondji border crossing on Monday. This compares with more than a thousand per day earlier during the influx.

UNHCR is focusing on improving living conditions in the two camps set up in Benin at Lokossa and Come. This includes re-arranging the tents in Lokossa, where the population is growing steadily, as well as organizing garbage collection and sewage systems in both camps and at the Hilakondji transit centre.

In Ghana, in the Aflao area, some 700 refugees staying with host families have received relief supplies from UNHCR, including mosquito nets, blankets, mats, jerry cans and kitchen utensils. They have also received assistance from other aid agencies to help their host families to cope with their presence. UNHCR is targeting assistance based on specific needs.

On Wednesday, a food assessment team with representatives from the Ghanaian government, Catholic Relief Services, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and UNHCR will field a mission along a 200-km stretch of border from Jasikan in the north to Aflao in the south in order to evaluate the food needs of the refugees staying in the area. Following the assessment, targeted food distribution will take place to ensure that those most in need effectively receive aid.

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Benin: Influx from Togo

More than 30,000 people fled Togo to seek security in neighbouring countries when violence erupted with the announcement of election results on April 26, 2005. The outflow slowed in the ensuing weeks, but Benin and Ghana continue to register daily arrivals.

More than half of the refugees arrived in Benin, many through the main crossing point at Hilakondji. The majority stayed with friends and host families, while several thousand were moved from a church compound near Hilakondji to Come and Lokossa camps. More land is being cleared at Lokossa to accommodate more of the new arrivals. UNHCR and its partners are providing food and relief items and building sanitation facilities.

In Ghana, most of the Togolese are living with relatives and friends, but these host families are now running low on resources. Aid agencies are working to meet the increasing need to distribute food and relief items like mats, jerry cans, mosquito nets and soap.

Benin: Influx from Togo

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