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Over 20,000 Togolese refugees flee political unrest

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Over 20,000 Togolese refugees flee political unrest

4 May 2005

4 May 2005

GENEVA - The number of refugees fleeing political unrest in Togo is continuing at a steady pace, with more than 20,000 Togolese now seeking refuge in neighbouring Benin and Ghana. This is up from 18,500 on Tuesday - a week after the outflow started.

"The situation in Togo seems calm but uneasy after the election results were confirmed yesterday. Refugees are continuing to cross the border and we are still hearing reports from some refugees that they have been roughed up by security forces," said UNHCR's head of West Africa operations, Michel Gaudé.

UNHCR is sending a second three-person emergency team to Benin before the weekend to back up a similar team sent four days ago. A senior emergency and security staff member is currently in Ghana reviewing the situation and is scheduled to travel to Benin in the coming days.

As of Wednesday, 9,979 refugees had been registered in Ghana, on Togo's western border, and 10,658 in Benin to the east. In both countries, refugees were crossing over at the major official border points and there were no reports of unofficial crossings being used. UNHCR is continuing to monitor the borders for new arrivals.

The situation at the Hilakondji border point in Benin was reported calm on Wednesday, with refugees continuing to arrive by road from the Togolese capital of Lomé. There were no early reports of refugees using canoes to cross the lagoon between the two countries as they have done on previous days.

The majority of the refugees in Benin have found shelter with extended family and friends, but those who were without family support have been transferred to Come camp (1,344) which is now at capacity, and Lokossa camp (1,429) which is being extended to accommodate 5,000 people. Some 300 refugees are still at the border staying in church grounds where they are receiving assistance from UNHCR's partner, Caritas. Food, mats, blankets and mosquito nets have been distributed. A group of 200 refugees found living in empty buildings in Agoue, 3 kms from Hilakondji, say they preferred to remain there instead of moving to a camp. UNHCR will provide assistance. The refugee agency is also providing transport for new arrivals who wish to stay with relatives.

A 10-truck UNHCR convoy from the refugee agency's regional warehouse in Ghana was expected to arrive late Wednesday at the camps in Benin loaded with non-food supplies for 5,000 people. The supplies of tents, blankets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and soap are in addition to the items for 2,500 people pre-positioned in Benin by the refugee agency earlier in the month as a contingency measure.

In Ghana, the flow of refugees remains steady, although there was a small but sudden surge in arrivals reported at Aflao border point adjacent to Lomé on Tuesday, as a result of neighbourhood searches by security forces, refugees said.