Ghana influx grows as fighting flares across Côte d'Ivoire

Briefing Notes, 1 April 2011

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 1 April 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Surging violence in Côte d'Ivoire is pushing more refugees eastwards into Ghana. Some 1,300 Ivorians entered Ghana this week after fleeing fresh fighting in Côte d'Ivoire's west (Duékoué), centre (Daloa) and north-east (Bondoukou). Another 250 arrived from Abidjan, where security conditions are precarious.

Until now, Ivorian refugees had been fleeing mainly from Abidjan and entering south-western Ghana via the Elubo border point. But with this week's clashes, we are seeing more people crossing through border points further north in Sampa and Atuna, in the Brong Ahafo Region. UNHCR is not present in the region, but has sent a team to assess their needs and provide assistance.

Most refugees are women and children. They reach Ghana by bus with few belongings. Some say they traveled eight hours to the south-western border town in Elubo, while others spent as many as four days reaching the border point in Sampa, at the midpoint of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire's shared border.

Several of the refugee families told UNHCR they fled due to fear of violence while some had witnessed or experienced violence in their communities. One 11-year old girl, who UNHCR staff came across in Elubo, recounted being abducted and raped. Her mother later discovered her unconscious on a roadside in the outskirts of Abidjan. UNHCR is providing her with medical assistance and counseling.

Most refugees in Ghana are currently accommodated in host communities. Some 1,700 of them are also staying in a new camp set up by UNHCR and the Ghanaian authorities in Ampain, 55 km from the Elubo border point. In anticipation of further arrivals into Ghana, the government has expressed readiness to allocate sites in the coastal and mid-western areas of the country to build further camps.

This week's wave of arrivals brings to over 5,000 the estimated number of Ivorian refugees now in Ghana.

The number of Ivorian refugees continues to sharply rise in Liberia, particularly in Grand Gedeh County in the southeast, where 30,017 have been registered. As of yesterday (Thursday), there were a total of 122, 958 refugees registered in both Nimba, Maryland and Grand Gedeh counties since the post-election crisis started in late November.

Most new arrivals in Grand Gedeh are in dire need of food, shelter and clothing. One family says the father died of hunger on the way to Liberia. In some locations, refugees survive by doing daily-wage labour for the local population, making about US$1.50 per day by brushing farms or by fetching wood.

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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.