West Africa ship: individual interviews begin

Briefing Notes, 29 June 2001

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 June 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has begun individual interviews with 156 ex-passengers of the Swedish-registered ship Alnar, which landed in Nigeria on Sunday after a four-week odyssey off the coast of West Africa. At the end of the first day of interviews on Wednesday, indications were that a large number of the passengers most of them Liberians are seeking asylum in Nigeria.

The government of Nigeria agreed on "humanitarian grounds" that the ship could dock in Lagos and indicated it would be willing to grant asylum to its passengers. The passengers, who had left Monrovia on June 1st, had been refused entry in Ghana. The ship then moored off the coast of Benin and later Togo without obtaining authorisation to dock.

Passengers coming off the ship on Tuesday morning received assistance from UNHCR and other relief agencies at the port. They received food and water as well as a package including blankets and kitchen tools. They were all given medical examinations and their overall condition was deemed satisfactory. They were then transported by bus to Oru refugee camp, some 120 km west of Lagos.

Oru already has close to 2,000 refugees, all of them from Sierra Leone. Nigeria is hosting 7,200 refugees, mainly from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Chad. A large number of them are urban refugees living in Lagos. UNHCR in Nigeria is assisting 4,800 of them. The rest have been locally integrated.