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High Commissioner in West Africa

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in West Africa

13 May 2003

The High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers arrives in Ghana this morning, where he will meet high government officials, including President Kufuor this afternoon. He will also visit Buduburam refugee camp, which hosts 28,000 Liberian refugees who fled the turmoil in their country. Some of them fled as early as 1990. Mr Lubbers was in Côte d'Ivoire until yesterday. He met President Laurent Gbagbo as well as Prime Minister Seydou Diarra and other officials to discuss possible solutions for refugee populations caught in the eight-month conflict. The High Commissioner said UNHCR was particularly concerned about an estimated 9,000 Liberian refugees in Nicla camp, in the west of the country. On Sunday, Mr Lubbers visited Nicla camp, where he met with representatives of various refugee groups and assured them that UNHCR was doing all it could to end their ordeal. All of them expressed concern about the insecurity in western Côte d'Ivoire and their desire to be relocated elsewhere. The High Commissioner also participated in the launch of a sensitisation campaign designed to ease animosity between the local population and refugees.

"If everyone shows tolerance and compassion, it can make a real difference," said Mr Lubbers, referring to the growing animosity which has developed in recent months against refugees in the country.

As part of his eight-day, five-nation mission to West Africa, the High Commissioner is then scheduled to travel to Liberia and Sierra Leone, where he will visit returnees and refugees, while in Guinea, he will visit UNHCR's operations for Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees. High Commissioner Lubbers will end his West Africa mission on Sunday.