UNHCR concerned over plight of Liberians stranded aboard ship off West Africa

UNHCR concerned over plight of Liberians stranded aboard ship off West Africa

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced concern over the plight of 150 Liberians stranded for the past 10 days on a ship off the coast of West Africa, warning that the conditions on board may deteriorate if a solution is not found soon.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the agency, told the press today in Geneva that UNHCR suspected that some of the passengers might be refugees and said the agency remained "very concerned" about their welfare.

According to UNHCR, the ship left Benin's territorial waters last night around 6 p.m. local time, reportedly heading towards Nigeria, after being denied permission to dock. The boat was waiting offshore for authorization to disembark its passengers, mostly Liberians, who had already been refused entry into Ghana last week, after leaving Monrovia the week before.

"UNHCR on Monday obtained authorization to visit in order to interview the passengers and assess their status and possible claims for asylum," Mr. Janowski said. "However, by the time the authorization came, the boat was already on its way out."