Media Advisory: More Ivorian refugees entering Liberia amid fear of political violence

Press Releases, 28 December 2010

Ivorian refugees continue to flee into eastern Liberia in Nimba County. To date, UNHCR and the local authorities have recorded a total of 15,120 refugees from villages between Danane and Guiglo in western Côte d'Ivoire while a further 4,000 arrivals have been reported.

The majority of the refugees are women and children, with 62 percent below 18 years of age. The refugees are a mixed group of supporters of both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo.

They say they fled due to fear that the political deadlock might lead to civil war.

The flow of Ivorian refugees into Liberia has continued since November 29. They are mostly from Ligbepleu, Tuopleu, Doupleu, Gbeadapleu, Gbinta and other villages between the towns of Danane and Guiglo.

As the refugee numbers grow, their presence is putting a strain on the local communities hosting them. Clean water, shelter and food remain the most pressing needs for refugees and the villagers alike as they have very little to survive on. Moreover, the houses are becoming overcrowded.

We are working with members of the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) to identify more villages to host the increasing number of refugees. At the same time, we are in talks with the government regarding the possibility to set up a camp.

In the meantime, UNHCR teams are distributing emergency aid across nearly 20 villages. As we register incoming refugees, we are providing them with plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, kerosene lamps, soap, as well as other basic household items.

UNHCR currently has supplies to cover the needs of up to 30,000 Ivorian refugees.

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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.