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Côte d'Ivoire: urgent need for new sites

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: urgent need for new sites

1 October 2002

UNHCR is desperately looking for new sites to house refugees who continue arriving at our offices in Abidjan after having been burned out of their homes in the so-called "precarious" districts of Abidjan. About 50 refugees continue arriving each day at UNHCR's office in the city. Some spend the night outside our gates, leaving themselves exposed to potential trouble after curfew.

UNHCR is now caring for more than 600 refugees in three sites in the Abidjan areas of Koumassi and Deux-Plateaux. The refugees are restless, frustrated and scared. There are many families with six or seven children, often including babies. In one area in Deux-Plateaux, we had to house over 165 refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo and Sudan in a single residential house. Despite having a large garden, the house is clearly too small for such a large group. Men, women and children from different countries try to secure a space for themselves on the lawn or inside the house, where there is no room for privacy. Sanitary conditions are minimal.

The refugees had to leave their houses hurriedly, often chased off by security forces. Many had no time to take anything with them. Some reported having been robbed of the little money they had. The refugees are traumatised by the events of last week and feel unjustly targeted.

There are about 100 Sierra Leonean refugees among those who have lost their homes and several have told us they now want to return to their country. UNHCR is organising their voluntary repatriation.

The situation inside Côte d'Ivoire remains volatile and unpredictable. The government policy of burning shanty towns in the so-called "precarious" districts - particularly around government buildings and military installations - is continuing. This is causing the displacement of Ivorian nationals, immigrants and refugees. The UN estimates that more than 6,000 people have now lost their homes and are displaced in Abidjan alone.

On Monday, UNHCR and other agencies met with the Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire to look at possible solutions to this humanitarian crisis. The government says it is willing to collaborate with all humanitarian agencies and is establishing an emergency cell to deal with the situation.