UN refugee agency aids people fleeing fighting in Liberia, Somalia
With armed clashes continuing in Liberia and Somalia, the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) is helping residents fleeing both nations to relocate into neighbouring countries, a spokesman for the agency reported today.
Nearly 300 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 forces and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development in the north-eastern area of the country, spokesman Peter Kessler told reporters in Geneva.
New arrivals at the Gbinta border crossing reported having to cross several roadblocks inside Liberia before being able to reach Côte d'Ivoire. None of the new arrivals were injured, “and many managed to flee with a lot of luggage,” he said. Another 200 Liberians were reportedly waiting for permission from Liberian authorities before being allowed to cross the frontier.
UNHCR and its partners have been providing transport for the new arrivals to Danane, Côte d'Ivoire, where they are given a hot meal, medical screening and a number of basic goods before being transferred to Nicla refugee camp.
Meanwhile, additional UNHCR staff were flown this morning from Nairobi to the town of Mandera, located on the border between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, to begin the temporary transfer of more than 10,000 Somali refugees encamped there to a site further away from clan fighting just over the border in Somalia.
Refugees – mainly women, children and the elderly – began arriving in Mandera nearly three weeks ago from Bula Hawa, a town of some 20,000 that was by late last week reported to be emptied by continued fighting between rival sub-clans, Mr. Kessler said.
UNHCR has been holding negotiations with the Kenyan Government to allow the refugees to remain temporarily around Mandera, hopeful that the situation in their home areas would improve soon enough to enable them to return home, according to the spokesman.
The Government has been hesitant to allow the establishment of a refugee camp in or around the area and has recommended transferring the refugees to either of the two existing camps in Kenya. “The refugees themselves do not wish to move and prefer to wait close by in the expectation that the fighting in their home areas will soon subside,” Mr. Kessler said.