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Côte d'Ivoire: concern about increasing hostility toward foreigners

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: concern about increasing hostility toward foreigners

27 September 2002

UNHCR is concerned about the increasing hostility toward foreigners, particularly refugees, in Côte d'Ivoire resulting from last week's coup attempt. More than 400 refugees whose shelters were burned in the aftermath of the coup attempt have now sought assistance from UNHCR in Abidjan. Between 30 and 40 refugees - mainly from destroyed shantytowns in Agban, Deux-Plateaux, Adjamé and Cocody - continue to arrive daily at the UNHCR office. More than 250 refugees are currently being housed in a rented shelter in Koumassi, while more than 140 are in the International Organization for Migration (IOM) transit centre in Deux Plateaux.

UNHCR has appealed to the local community for additional sites to house the refugees. A third centre was identified yesterday at a Catholic school which offered to take in and care for 100 refugees for free. But this site will quickly fill up and we urgently need more accommodation centres. The local community has shown a lot of solidarity. People have come to the office offering clothes and food for the refugees.

There are estimates that more than 5,000 people in Abidjan alone have been affected by the recent burning of the shantytowns. These include refugees, other foreign nationals and Ivorians. UNHCR's assistance consists of shelter, food and security. Most of the recently displaced refugees were registered in Abidjan and new, longer-term housing will have to be found for them. Some were also registered in country areas. Once the situation calms down and it is deemed safe to do so, UNHCR will assist with their return to rural areas. At the same time, we are actively promoting repatriation for Sierra Leonean refugees still residing in Côte d'Ivoire.

Outside Abidjan, the situation reportedly remains very tense in the towns of Bouaké and Korhogo. Among those evacuated by French troops from Bouaké were 50 refugees and family members of a UNHCR staff member.

Borders with Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea remain closed. No movements are reported along the borders. UNHCR offices in neighbouring countries are monitoring the situation closely.

Fuel shortages in Guiglo and Tabou have hampered the humanitarian operation. UNHCR has advised all refugees to restrict their movement for their own safety.

UNHCR is having daily coordination meetings with the government, other members of the UN family, and NGOs.