Post-electoral tensions drive some 2,000 Ivorians into Liberia and Guinea

News Stories, 10 December 2010

© UNHCR/S.Kpandji
Women collect water in Guiglo. Many of those who have fled come from villages near the town.

GENEVA, December 10 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday it was closely following the post-electoral crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, which has led some 2,000 Ivorians, mostly women and children, to seek safety in neighbouring Liberia and Guinea.

"UNHCR continues to monitor very closely the situation in and around Côte d'Ivoire and we have taken steps to strengthen our readiness to respond should the situation deteriorate," UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, told journalists in Geneva. "We hope that Ivorian leaders will resolve the crisis peacefully."

To date, an estimated 1,700 people have crossed into Nimba county, north-eastern Liberia. Another 200 arrived exhausted in Guinea's Nzerekore region after having walked for two days. The numbers come from local authorities in both countries.

"The refugees all fled from villages located between the towns of Danane and Guiglo in western Côte d'Ivoire," Mahecic said. "They told UNHCR their movement was precautionary, prompted by fears of instability and violence as the political deadlock persists."

A first group of 300 refugees reached Liberia on November 29, a day after the second round of presidential elections. Guinea started registering arrivals on Wednesday.

UNHCR teams are currently visiting the refugees in both countries. They are scattered in isolated and poor border villages, hosted by local communities which have been generously sharing their resources.

"Our teams touring the border areas are registering the new arrivals and assessing their conditions in order to respond to their most pressing needs," Mahecic said in Geneva's Palais des Nations. "Most of the Ivorian asylum-seekers are in good physical condition, but they urgently need food and shelter to ease the pressure on the local communities hosting them. They also need clean drinking water, clothing and basic cooking and hygiene items."

Before the current crisis, UNHCR had been assisting some 13,000 Ivorian refugees who fled the 2002 civil war in their country. These include 6,000 in Liberia, 4,000 in Guinea and 2,000 in Mali.

In Côte d'Ivoire, UNHCR is assisting some 25,000 refugees, mainly from Liberia, and 35,000 internally displaced people.

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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

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

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.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.