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Over 11,000 Togolese seek refuge in Benin and Ghana

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Over 11,000 Togolese seek refuge in Benin and Ghana

30 April 2005

GENEVA - The number of Togolese fleeing general insecurity in the country is steadily increasing, with more than 11,500 refugees having crossed over into neighbouring Benin and Ghana by Saturday. This was up from 7,000 on Friday.

The situation in Togo's capital Lomé was reportedly calmer on Saturday. But refugees continued to cross into Benin at the Hilakondji border point, with some 7,500 refugees arriving since Tuesday. UNHCR and its partners have already transferred 800 new arrivals to Come camp, which is now at full capacity. The camp is 80 kms from Benin's capital Cotonou. UNHCR expected to transfer 500 refugees to a new camp at Lokossa later on Saturday. The majority of the remaining refugees have sought shelter with relatives in the region. Several hundred others who have chosen to remain in the border area are staying in church grounds and are receiving assistance from UNHCR's partner, Caritas, and the Benin Red Cross.

In Ghana, refugee numbers climbed to over 4,000 by Saturday afternoon, from 628 on Friday. A total of 1,131 people crossed into Ghana on Saturday at Aflao, which is very close to Lomé.

UNHCR's head of West Africa operations Michel Gaudé, said although numbers had risen the situation was calm and the majority of Togolese had been welcomed by their extended families and friendly communities.

"There was a temporary increase in the number of arrivals through the border post of Aflao after the border re-opened, but now border movements have nearly come back to regular levels," Gaudé said Saturday. "Many of the arrivals say they are concerned about the general situation in Togo after the elections, but that they hope to be able to return in the coming days, as the situation returns to normal."

The U.N. refugee agency has reinforced its registration and monitoring activities along Ghana's southern border with Togo at Aflao, Kpoglo and Dzodze, in a joint operation with Ghana's Immigration Service and a local non-governmental organisation, WISE. Two joint mobile registration and monitoring teams are also watching the border from Dzodze northwards to Nyive, 15 km north-west of Ho, the regional capital.

A 10-truck UNHCR convoy loaded with supplies for 5,000 people left the agency's regional warehouse in Ghana's capital, Accra, on Saturday morning, bound for Benin via Burkina Faso. The trucks are carrying tents, plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans, soap and other supplies. The journey is expected to take four days and is taking the indirect route through Burkina Faso because of security concerns in Togo. Earlier in April, UNHCR pre-positioned supplies for 2,500 people in Benin.

A three-person UNHCR emergency team was heading to Benin over the weekend to reinforce agency personnel already on the ground.