Côte d'Ivoire exodus into neighbouring countries swells to 150,000

Briefing Notes, 8 April 2011

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

From Côte d'Ivoire, thousands of refugees continue to pour into neighbouring countries amid uncertainty over the outcome of the political crisis. Close to 150,000 Ivorian refugees are now spread across West Africa.

Most of the refugees (135,000) are hosted in Liberia. On Wednesday alone, over 4,500 Ivorians were estimated to have entered Maryland county in the country's south-east. Two refugees with gunshot wounds were transferred to hospital. Some of the new arrivals told UNHCR staff they fled after fighting erupted the same day in the Ivorian coastal town of Tabou, across the Cavally river. Another group said they fled after hearing about the massacre of over 800 people in Douékoué, 150 km to the north.

Refugees we have spoken to are visibly tired, hungry and exhausted after arriving in Maryland county through different means on foot through the bushes, by canoe across the Cavally river, and by sea. Some say they saw dead bodies on their way to Liberia.

UNHCR staff in Maryland county report hearing heavy bombardment in Côte d'Ivoire across the Cavally river.

Fighting also continues to rage in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire's commercial capital, driving more civilians into exile in Ghana. Some 2,000 Ivorians have crossed into Ghana in the last week, bringing the total there to 7,200. Ghana has opened a second camp to host the refugees. In addition to Ampain camp near the border, the new Kassap camp has received 446 refugees transferred by UNHCR in the last week.

Further east of Côte d'Ivoire, some 200 Ivorians have been arriving daily in Togo in recent days, bringing the total to 2,300 Ivorian refugees. Twelve countries in the region have received Ivorian refugees since the post-election crisis started in Côte d'Ivoire last November.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Monrovia: Sulaiman Momodu on mobile +231 649 38 62

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In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483