Displaced refugees in Côte d'Ivoire need more shelters, says UNHCR
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, September 27 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has expressed concern about increasing hostility towards refugees in the wake of a recent coup attempt in Côte d'Ivoire, and appealed for additional sites to house hundreds of refugees displaced in a post-coup security sweep.
Following the attempted coup on September 19, more than 400 refugees in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan have so far approached UNHCR for help after their shantytowns were burnt down, reportedly by government troops in search of potential dissidents. Between 30 and 40 refugees - mainly from destroyed shantytowns in Agban, Deux-Plateaux, Adjamé and Cocody - continue to arrive daily at the refugee agency's office in Abidjan.
More than 250 refugees are currently being housed in rented shelter in Koumassi, while over 140 are in the IOM (International Organization for Migration) transit centre in Deux Plateaux.
On Thursday, a Catholic school offered to take in and care for 100 refugees for free. Anticipating that this site will fill up quickly, UNHCR has appealed to the local community for more centres to house the refugees.
Many of the recently displaced refugees are Liberians and Sierra Leoneans, with some Congolese and Togolese among them. New, longer-term housing will have to be found for those who were registered in Abidjan. For others registered in rural areas, UNHCR will assist with their return to their host areas once the situation calms down and security returns. At the same time, the refugee agency is offering the option of repatriation for Sierra Leonean refugees in Côte d'Ivoire.
The recent burning of shantytowns in Abidjan is estimated to have affected more than 5,000 people including refugees, other foreign nationals and Ivorians. UNHCR is helping by providing shelter, food and security. In addition, members of the local community have come to the agency's office offering food and clothes for the refugees.
Outside Abidjan, the situation reportedly remains very tense in the towns of Bouaké and Korhogo, where soldiers also mutinied on September 19. Among those evacuated by French troops from Bouaké were 50 refugees and the family of a UNHCR staff member.
The UN refugee agency has advised all refugees in Côte d'Ivoire to restrict their movement for their own safety. The agency is having daily co-ordination meetings with the Ivorian government, other members of the UN family, and non-governmental organisations.
No movements have been reported along Côte d'Ivoire's borders with five neighbouring countries, where UNHCR offices are monitoring the situation closely. Borders with Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea remain closed.