Global perspective Human stories

UNHCR plans to speak to Liberians aboard ship stranded off West Africa coast

UNHCR plans to speak to Liberians aboard ship stranded off West Africa coast

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it was planning to interview a group of 150 Liberians on board a Swedish-registered ship that was able to dock on Tuesday in Lagos, Nigeria, after a month-long odyssey along the coast of West Africa.

UNHCR said it would interview the passengers once they had completed immigration procedures.

Last Friday, officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) informed the UN refugee agency that Nigeria had agreed to accept the ship and its passengers "on humanitarian grounds." Port authorities in Lagos last night were still trying to find a docking space for the vessel, the Alnar, in the overcrowded port, a UNHCR spokesman told the press today in Geneva.

Under the arrangement, UNHCR and the Nigerian Refugee Commission were allowed on board after immigration authorities had spoken to the passengers. The Alnar had been moored off the Nigerian port since Sunday, after nearly four weeks at sea. It had left Monrovia, Liberia, on 1 June, making initial stops in Accra, Ghana, where some Ghanaian and Nigerian passengers were allowed to disembark, but not the Liberians. The ship then headed for Benin, and later Togo, where it was not allowed to approach the coast.

During the four-week odyssey, UNHCR made repeated calls for authorities in different West African countries to permit the ship to dock and allow UNHCR staff on board in order to assess the status of the Liberian passengers. The agency also expressed growing concern over the deteriorating conditions of the passengers who were reportedly short of food, water, and medicines.