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Deputy High Commissioner ends West Africa trip

Briefing notes

Deputy High Commissioner ends West Africa trip

24 January 2003

Deputy High Commissioner Mary Ann Wyrsch today (Friday) visited 183 predominantly Liberian refugees, including 73 children, who have been living in a collective centre in Abidjan since September, when their homes in the city's shantytowns were razed by Ivorian security forces.

Ms. Wyrsch told the refugees she was concerned about their safety and the general situation in Côte d'Ivoire. She also reiterated a call for refugees to stay out of the conflict and top resist attempts to recruit them. There have been reports of recruitment of Liberian refugees by the warring parties, particularly in western regions of the country where there has been fighting since mid-November. Later today, Ms. Wyrsch was scheduled to meet with Côte d'Ivoire's foreign minister, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, humanitarian community representatives and UNHCR staff, before wrapping up her 11-day tour of West Africa.

On Thursday, she also met with the First Lady, Mme. Simone Gbagbo. Earlier in the day, Ms. Wyrsch visited the VOA camp for Sierra Leonean refugees, near Monrovia and encouraged them to go home. She mentioned the upbeat spirit she had witnessed among the returnees in the Kailahun district, in eastern Sierra Leone, which she visited on Monday. UNHCR recently started promoting return to Sierra Leone as part of a strategy to find solutions for an estimated 100,000 Sierra Leoneans still refugees in the region. An estimated 17,500 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in Liberia.

The Deputy High Commissioner returns to Geneva on Sunday.