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Refugee numbers fleeing Togo climb steadily to 16,500

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Refugee numbers fleeing Togo climb steadily to 16,500

2 May 2005

2 May 2005

GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency reported Monday that the number of refugees fleeing post-election insecurity in Togo continues to climb steadily, reaching some 16,500 in neighbouring Benin and Ghana. This is up from 11,500 on Saturday.

"In Benin we are seeing a new trend, with people arriving from the opposition neighbourhood of Be in the Togolese capital of Lomé, claiming they were being harassed by the security forces," said UNHCR's head of West Africa operations, Michel Gaudé.

Previously in Benin, refugees were crossing over from the nearby Aneho region and not Lomé, which borders Ghana.

By Monday morning, over 9,000 refugees had been registered in Benin and some 7,500 in Ghana.

"We have to exercise a little bit of caution over the numbers in Ghana as it seems some refugees from Lomé are coming over at the Aflao border crossing to stay the night in Ghana for safety, then returning to work in Lomé during the day," Gaudé added.

Most of the refugees have said they hope to return to Togo in the coming days as the situation calms down. In the meantime, the majority are staying with welcoming relatives and friends. Others have preferred to rent short-term accommodation. Local non-governmental and church organisations are providing food and basic supplies to those most in need of assistance.

UNHCR is continuing to monitor the border area to verify new arrivals.

In Benin, the Hilakondji border was reported calm Monday. Some 300 refugees were staying in the church grounds there, but are expected to move shortly to a new transit site being prepared at Grand Popo which can offer better facilities. Over 1,000 refugees are in Come camp, and more than 800 at Lokossa camp, which started receiving refugees over the weekend. The Lokossa site is being expanded to cope with more arrivals. The remaining refugees have found shelter with friends and family.

A 10-truck convoy loaded with non-food supplies for 5,000 people left UNHCR's regional warehouse in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday bound for Benin. This will boost supplies for 2,500 people that had been pre-positioned in Benin last month.