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Côte d'Ivoire: 10,000 Liberian refugees without assistance following attacks on UNHCR offices

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: 10,000 Liberian refugees without assistance following attacks on UNHCR offices

24 January 2006 Also available in:

UNHCR is looking for ways to resume its activities on behalf of thousands of refugees in western Côte d'Ivoire in the aftermath of last week's violence in Guiglo, near the Liberian border. We have evacuated all staff - including 11 nationals and one international - from Guiglo after the series of attacks that began last Monday night, when hundreds of protesters converged on the UN compound. They threatened UN staff and humanitarian workers alike, calling for their immediate departure from Guiglo. This followed similar protests against the UN in Abidjan.

The UNHCR office in Guiglo was destroyed during the attacks after protesters looted the premises and then set fire to the building. All files were lost, as well as five cars, one motorcycle, and three generators. Other UN agencies and several international NGOs have suffered similar losses. Warehouses containing relief items and food were also looted.

UNHCR is shocked at the level of the violence and saddened that its staff and other UN and humanitarian workers were targeted. UNHCR has been in Guiglo for more than 10 years, working on behalf of refugees and the local host population. UNHCR is concerned that it has no staff left on the ground to assist more than 10,000 Liberian refugees, especially since most of its implementing partners have also withdrawn their staff. Another cause for concern is that stocks of relief items - including food - destined for the refugees have been looted, as well as the vehicles needed to reach beneficiaries and distribute aid. Supplies now have to be replenished and logistical support rebuilt.

Most of the 37,500 refugees registered in Côte d'Ivoire live in the west of the country, including some 6,000 in Nicla camp, near Guiglo, and more than 4,000 others in the surrounding community. Information received from Nicla camp indicates that the refugees are safe. Nevertheless, last week's events have jeopardised the delivery of assistance to those in need.

A UN inter-agency mission is scheduled to go to Guiglo in the coming days to assess the situation on the ground and the possibility of resuming operations.