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UN assists refugees displaced by instability in Côte d’Ivoire

UN assists refugees displaced by instability in Côte d’Ivoire

The United Nations is helping some 200 refugees in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, who say they lost their homes after government forces reportedly burned parts of the city’s immigrant districts during a security sweep.

The State’s actions followed an attempted coup on 19 September by mutinying soldiers in Abidjan and two other major cities – Korhogo in the north and Bouaké in the central part of the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency said most of the displaced are Liberians and Sierra Leoneans. Many had lived in makeshift barracks in the surroundings of the Agban Gendarmerie camp, where fierce fighting took place.

“Police forces have reportedly burned houses in that district, which is largely populated by immigrants from several African countries, in an apparent attempt to root out potential dissidents,” UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency has organized emergency shelter at different points in Abidjan where the displaced refugees can stay safely. UNHCR has also distributed bread and sardines to refugees, with some of the food provided by local residents in what the spokesman called “a sign of solidarity.”

Margarida Fawke, UNHCR programme officer in Abidjan, said efforts were being made to help resolve the long-term problems facing the refugees. “We are sending people to talk to the Sierra Leoneans in particular, and offer them the option to repatriate, informing them about what they can expect in Sierra Leone should they choose to do so,” she said.

As of Monday, there were no reported movements of refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to any of its five neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR. The borders with Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are now officially closed.