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Benin: UNHCR urges access to boat Liberians

Briefing notes

Benin: UNHCR urges access to boat Liberians

15 June 2001

UNHCR has urged the authorities in Benin to allow UNHCR workers access to some 120 Liberians on board a ship coming from Monrovia which has been stranded off west Africa for more than a week. The ship is currently anchored off the shore of Benin waiting for permission to dock. UNHCR insists on access to the group to establish whether it includes refugees in need of international protection.

Although the exact status of the passengers is not yet clear, UNHCR is concerned that at least some of the Liberian nationals could be refugees under the 1951 Convention and their cases should be heard.

Last Sunday, the ship was allowed to dock in Ghana where Ghanaian citizens, as well as some Nigerians and Sierra Leoneans, were allowed to disembark. However the Liberians were turned away because they did not have proper travel documents. Neither UNHCR nor the Ghanaian Refugee Commission were able to access the group of Liberians, before the ship was ordered to leave the harbour of Tema, east of Accra. UNHCR expressed its concern in a letter to the authorities.