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Côte d'Ivoire: most operations now resumed

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: most operations now resumed

31 January 2003

UNHCR has now resumed most of its operations in Côte d'Ivoire after a three-day suspension following unrest in Abidjan and general insecurity in the rest of the country last weekend. Since a partial resumption on Wednesday, another 235 Liberian refugees have been transported from Tabou, in western Côte d'Ivoire, across the Cavaly River to Liberia. Another 300 are scheduled to cross today, bringing to more than 1,400 the number of returns since the emergency return began on 17 January. In all, more than 1,700 refugees are still awaiting repatriation in the Tabou area. Many refugees, increasingly worried following recent developments in the country, have asked to be transported as quickly as possible to Liberia. Many are so desperate that they have asked UNHCR to simply arrange for free passage past several vigilante checkpoints on the 30-km stretch of road between Tabou and Prollo, a town on the Côte d'Ivoire side of the border river. They say they can do without immediate assistance on the Liberian side.

Hundreds of Liberian refugees, many of them chased from their homes by angry Ivorians who accuse them of siding with the rebels, have been stopped at the checkpoints in recent weeks and prevented from leaving the country. In one such incident this week, a group of 25 Liberian men was apprehended by young vigilantes at a church in Tabou, verbally abused and threatened with death. They were later released following the intervention of UNHCR and government refugee officials. The men will be repatriated by UNHCR, together with their families.

Refugees are still being targeted in various parts of the country and we remain very concerned about the general security situation.