Liberians arrive in Côte d'Ivoire
A total of 287 Liberians arrived in Côte d'Ivoire over the weekend in what may be the first wave of frightened residents fleeing reported heavy fighting between government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) rebel forces in the north-eastern Gbarnga area of Liberia.
New arrivals at the Gbinta border crossing report having to cross several roadblocks inside Liberia before being able to reach Côte d'Ivoire. No one among the new arrivals was injured, and many managed to flee with a lot of luggage. Another 200 Liberians are reported to be waiting for permission from the Liberian authorities before being allowed to cross the frontier.
UNHCR and its partners are providing transport for the new arrivals to Danané, Côte d'Ivoire, where they receive a hot meal, medical screening and a number of basic goods before they are transferred to Nicla refugee camp.
If the situation should deteriorate, more refugees may head out on foot towards Côte d'Ivoire or Guinea. Gunfire was heard near Monrovia on Monday morning, causing panic in the capital. But the situation was said to be calm late in the day. UNHCR is monitoring the situation in the Sierra Leonean refugee camps around Monrovia, where the situation is said to be calm.
At the end of 2001, Côte d'Ivoire was host to some 126,000 refugees, including 122,000 Liberians, many of them in urban areas.
So far this year more than 24,000 Liberians have fled their homeland, with 14,000 people entering Sierra Leone, 6,000 arriving in Guinea, and some 4,000 arriving in Côte d'Ivoire. There are now more than 250,000 Liberian refugees throughout the region, mainly in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.