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Côte d'Ivoire: Assistant High Commissioner's West Africa mission

Briefing notes

Côte d'Ivoire: Assistant High Commissioner's West Africa mission

13 December 2002

UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane today arrived in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, on the first leg of a 6-day trip to West Africa that will focus on the Côte d'Ivoire crisis. He will visit Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Ghana and Togo. He is scheduled to meet with top officials in the three countries and chair a UNHCR meeting of country representatives from West Africa. He will also visit the refugee sites in and around Abidjan and Monrovia, before heading back to Geneva.

In Côte d'Ivoire UNHCR sent a team on Wednesday to Guiglo, in the west of the country, to re-establish contact with thousands of refugees stranded by fighting. The three-member team was scheduled to visit Nicla camp near Guiglo, originally of 5,000 refugees, but there were reports that many more frightened refugees had sought shelter there in the past days. The mission will also assess most urgent needs and look at different options for a possible evacuation, initially of the Nicla group and later possibly others.

UNHCR had earlier this week closed its office in Guiglo and recalled its staff to safer locations, following insecurity in the area.

UNHCR has had no contact with the border areas of western Côte d'Ivoire - Danané and Toulépleu - since fresh fighting erupted there two weeks ago. Before the hostilities started the area hosted 45,000 refugees, mostly Liberians.

A number of them are believed to have since crossed back into Liberia. At least 28,000 Liberians have been registered at ten main border points since November 29. In addition, 14,000 Ivorian refugees have also fled to Liberia during the same period. Most are staying in villages near the border, hoping to be able to return soon.

In Liberia, UNHCR has set up a major trucking operation to bring the returning Liberians from the border zone to their final destinations, mainly to the capital, Monrovia, as well as Bong, Nimba and other counties.