Ivorian refugees continue to enter Liberia

Briefing Notes, 14 December 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 December 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Amid continuing political uncertainty in Ivory Coast UNHCR has been seeing further arrivals of Ivorians in northeastern Liberia. As of Saturday, an estimated 3,500 people had entered Liberia with new arrivals reported in villages along the border at a rate now of around 150 people per day.

In line with the Liberian government's non-encampment policy, the Ivorians are settling in local communities. Villagers have taken them into their homes and are sharing their own resources. UNHCR teams are registering and assisting arrivees, but the villages are spread far apart and with poor road conditions getting heavy trucks there is taking time.

Meanwhile in Guinea the number of newly registered Ivorian refugees in the southeast of the country is stable at some 200, although some of our partners reported further arrivals in Lola prefecture yesterday morning, which our teams are currently verifying. At the request of the local authorities, we have transferred the group to a transit center at Bosso, 18 km further from the border.

Those arriving in Guinea had walked two days through the Mount Nimba area. Some were barefoot and others with small children said they slept in the open. UNHCR provided them with warm meals and other assistance as they fled without personal belongings.

The refugees in both Liberia and Guinea come from a string of villages along the border from Danane to Guiglo in western Cote d'Ivoire. The majority are women with children, their husbands left behind. They urgently need food, clean water, sanitation facilities, clothing and basic hygiene items.

So far, we not seen refugee movements into any of the three other countries neighbouring Ivory Coast. We have nonetheless strenghtened our emergency preparedness.

Prior to the current crisis, UNHCR was assisting some 13,000 Ivorian refugees who went into exile mainly in Liberia (6,000), Guinea (4,000) and Mali (2,000) during the civil war in their country, which officially ended in 2005. We also help an additional 35,000 internally displaced people in western Cote d'Ivoire.

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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

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

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.