Benin, Ghana record 18,500 Togolese refugees

The number of people fleeing Togo is still rising steadily, with 10,000 in Benin and 8,500 in Ghana. More are on their way, say the refugees in Benin, while Ghana has seen a slowdown in the pace of arrivals.

Togolese refugees at Hilakondji awaiting their transfer to UNHCR camps or to other areas of Benin where they have family.   © UNHCR/F.Kaba

HILAKONDJI, Benin, May 3 (UNHCR) - Some 18,500 Togolese refugees have now arrived in neighbouring Benin and Ghana, a week after the provisional results of Togo's election were announced. The new arrivals say that more people are on their way, and aid workers are standing by in the event of further unrest as Togo's constitutional court officially confirms the results today.

Benin has recorded some 10,000 arrivals in the last week. The refugees say that more are on their way, especially from the Togolese capital of Lomé, and Aneho, close to the border with Benin.

"UNHCR is extending its monitoring activities further north from the main border crossing point at Hilakondji following reports that refugees may be entering Benin at informal crossing points, then making their way south," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

A total of 1,150 refugees have been transferred to Benin's Lokossa camp, which is being expanded rapidly to accommodate 5,000 people. Come camp is hosting another 1,100 refugees.

"Some refugees, who had previously hoped to find family and friends to stay with, are now asking to go to the camps because they could not locate their relatives," said Pagonis. She added that UNHCR is preparing a new transit centre with better sanitation and facilities at Grand Popo to help the new arrivals and some 300 refugees now living in a church compound close to the border.

On Togo's other flank, Ghana has seen a slowdown in the pace of arrivals. On Monday, the Afloa border post close to Lomé recorded 1,079 new arrivals. After noon, the number of border crossings was almost back to normal. The total number of arrivals in Ghana in the last week now stands at 8,500.

"There are reports that some refugees are seeking safety in Ghana overnight and returning to work in Togo during the day," said Pagonis. "Other reports indicate some refugees are already returning home. Virtually all refugees crossing into Ghana have been staying with welcoming family and friends."