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Côte d'Ivoire: Staff movements limited in west and north following fighting

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: Staff movements limited in west and north following fighting

4 March 2005

UNHCR has been limiting movements by our staff in western and northern Côte d'Ivoire following clashes on Monday between pro-government militias and rebels near the western town of Man. The fighting and subsequent tensions around the Zone of Confidence have caused some disruption to a UNHCR census of Liberian refugees which began in the rebel-controlled north on February 21. The census exercise is continuing at the Nicla refugee camp, 7 km from the town of Guiglo in the west of the country. UNHCR has an office in Guiglo, 139 km east of the Liberian border. But the restrictions on staff movement in the region mean we will temporarily hold off on registration activities in the border districts of Ben-Houyen, Zouan-Hounien, Blolequin and Toulépleu, where some 10,000 Liberian refugees are settled in various villages.

The census registration is aimed at updating refugee information and providing refugees with identity documents certifying their status. A lack of valid documentation in a conflict environment can subject refugees to harassment or suspicion of membership in one of the fighting forces.

While calm has returned in the aftermath of Monday's fighting in Logouale, 15 km south of Man, UNHCR remains concerned by the continued tensions in western Côte d'Ivoire. The security of some 17,000 Liberian refugees could be at risk if the situation deteriorates. In 2003, Liberian refugees had to be evacuated to Abidjan, the commercial capital, to rescue them from fierce fighting in the west.

In Nicla camp outside Guiglo, many refugees are expressing anxiety at the renewed hostilities and want UNHCR to enhance security in and around the camp. We are working with other U.N. partners and local authorities on additional measures to make the camp more secure.

In all, there are an estimated 70,000 Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire, mainly settled in the west and in the Tabou region in the south.