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UNHCR updates regional emergency plan in midst of Ivorian turmoil

UNHCR updates regional emergency plan in midst of Ivorian turmoil

Besides helping displaced refugees in Côte d'Ivoire, the UN refugee agency has deployed staff to neighbouring countries to assist fleeing refugees and will soon set up a regional stockpile for 20,000 people. Meanwhile, some 40 Sierra Leonean refugees in Abidjan are set to fly home.
29 October 2002

ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, October 29 (UNHCR) - Some 40 Sierra Leonean refugees recently displaced in Côte d'Ivoire could be flying home soon. This comes as UNHCR updates a humanitarian plan to address possible future emergencies in the region.

This week, the UN refugee agency is planning to repatriate - by airlift - some 40 Sierra Leonean refugees made homeless in Abidjan after an attempted coup in Côte d'Ivoire on September 19.

These Sierra Leoneans are among the 1,000 displaced refugees receiving UNHCR assistance in five sites in Abidjan. Many of them were displaced when their shantytown homes were razed in post-coup security sweeps, which are still continuing despite an announcement by President Gbagbo on October 8 that the clean-up operation would be restricted to areas surrounding military installations.

UNHCR has appealed to the Ivorian government to minimise displacement and identify alternative and secure sites for those made homeless by the destruction.

At the same time, the refugee agency has updated a humanitarian plan to address possible future emergencies in the West Africa region. This involves reviewing UNHCR's level of preparedness and evaluating what type of assistance it can provide to displaced or transiting groups in Côte d'Ivoire and the region.

Since September 19, some 1,800 Ivorian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring Mali. Along Côte d'Ivoire's borders with other countries, only small movements have been reported, mostly of Malian, Ghanaian, Guinean or Niger citizens returning to their countries. UNHCR has clarified that it is not helping these non-refugee nationals return to their countries of origin.

The agency, however, has expressed concern that many Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire could be returning spontaneously to parts of Liberia where fighting is still raging. There are also fears that they may seek asylum in a third country.

UNHCR is deploying staff to Mali and Burkina Faso to monitor the situation and start assisting persons under its mandate. The agency is also planning to establish a regional stockpile in Accra, Ghana, with sufficient items for up to 20,000 people. This will be similar to the stockpile in Ngara, Tanzania, catering for the East, Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa.