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UNHCR aid reaches Ghanaian refugees in northern Togo

Briefing Notes, 4 June 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 June 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Four UNHCR trucks loaded with emergency aid and rushed from Accra at the end of the past week have reached northern Togo. The distribution of UNHCR assistance to some 3,600 Ghanaian refugees in Togo's Tandjouaré region is therefore scheduled to begin this weekend. Ghanaian villagers crossed into Togo fleeing a violent land dispute, in which, reportedly, four people were killed, several injured, hundreds of properties destroyed and an unknown number of people forced to leave their homes.

Together with the Togolese authorities, we are moving ahead with plans to tackle the continuing tensions between the opposing groups of refugees, belonging to different clans, by moving people into two separate campsites, about 5 kilometres apart.

The two sites, at Matougou and Gbadakungue, have been made available to UNHCR by the local authorities and we are preparing them for use. We expect them to be ready within the next four weeks. The refugees will be transferred to the new sites as the work progresses.

Refugees crossed the border into northern Togo between the end of April and the end of May amid a worsening land dispute between the villages of Kombatiek and Nadongou. The accounts we've had from refugees speak of violent clashes, pillaging and torching of houses. Refugees tell us the conflict has been brewing for three years and fear it will take time to resolve.

Many of the refugees are currently housed by local Togolese families in traditional huts. Refugees outnumber the host community two-to-one and many are living in schools and other public buildings or staying in tents provided by the Togolese authorities. We are concerned that these tents may not be able to sustain the approaching rainy season.

To encourage reconciliation, the Ghanaian government sent a delegation to visit the refugees last week. The delegation informed people about measures put in place by the Ministry of Security to pacify their villages. It also invited them to return and promised that the Ghanaian government would rebuild the houses of those returning. While some refugees say they are willing to return as soon as they have proof of better security, most say they are not ready to go home.




UNHCR country pages

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