Global perspective Human stories

UN agency helps to move Liberian refugees to western Côte d'Ivoire

UN agency helps to move Liberian refugees to western Côte d'Ivoire

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun transferring new arrivals from Liberia to a refugee camp in the western part of Côte d'Ivoire, an agency spokesman said today.

UNHCR in Côte d'Ivoire has moved a total of 428 Liberian refugees to the Nicla camp in five convoys over the past two weeks, spokesman Kris Janowski said. The first convoy also included 19 Sierra Leoneans who fled to Côte d'Ivoire from Guinea after the first attacks on the Guinean border last year. More convoys will be set up for the remaining 1,200 Liberians who are candidates for transfer, out of the 4,563 who have recently arrived in Côte d'Ivoire.

The new wave of arrivals in Cote d'Ivoire began in May when fighting resumed in Liberia's northern counties, Mr. Janowski said. Apart from the fighting itself, many reported forced conscription and police intimidation as a reason for fleeing.

New arrivals have spontaneously settled in the western areas of Côte d'Ivoire. Many of them, however, belong to the Kpellé tribe, and they prefer to remain in villages rather than go to the Nicla camp, which they would have to share with some 4,000 Liberians who have been in Côte d'Ivoire for several years and who mainly belong to the rival Krahn ethnic group, Mr. Janowski said.

In Nicla the refugees are given a plot of land, construction material, kitchen sets, mats and blankets and receive food for a year. UNHCR is also supporting community projects such as breeding and soap manufacturing with a view to gradually helping refugees become self-sufficient.

Meanwhile in Guinea, UNHCR has started to relocate Liberians away from the border area to a revamped camp 100 kilometres to the north. Close to 5,000 refugees have so far registered for transfer to the new camp, which can hold up to 6,000 people. UNHCR is looking at additional sites to accommodate an additional 14,000 potential candidates for transfer from the Nzerekore and Macenta areas.