Côte d’Ivoire: UN agency scrambles to find shelter for refugees fleeing violence

Côte d’Ivoire: UN agency scrambles to find shelter for refugees fleeing violence

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With asylum seekers continuing to arrive at the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after recent violence forced them from their homes, the agency today said it was “desperately” looking for additional sites to house the new arrivals.

With asylum seekers continuing to arrive at the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after recent violence forced them from their homes, the agency today said it was “desperately” looking for additional sites to house the new arrivals.

About 50 refugees show up each day at UNHCR’s office in Abidjan after having been burned out of their homes in the so-called precarious districts of the city, a spokesman for the agency said in Geneva. Some spend the night outside the gates of the office, leaving them exposed to potential trouble after curfew.

UNHCR is now caring for more than 600 refugees in three sites in the Abidjan areas of Koumassi and Deux-Plateaux, where the agency had to house over 165 refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo and the Sudan in a single residential house. “The refugees are restless, frustrated and scared,” spokesman Kris Janowski said at a press briefing. “There are many families with six or seven children, often including babies.”

The refugees had to leave their houses hurriedly, often chased off by security forces, Mr. Janowski said. “Many had no time to take anything with them,” he added. “Some reported having been robbed of the little money they had. The refugees are traumatized by the events of last week and feel unjustly targeted.”

Meanwhile, the situation inside Côte d’Ivoire remains volatile and unpredictable, according to the spokesman, who noted that the government policy of burning shantytowns in the precarious districts – particularly around government buildings and military installations – is continuing. The action has caused an estimated 6,000 people – Ivorian nationals, immigrants and refugees – to lose their homes in Abidjan.

Yesterday, UNHCR and other agencies met with the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire to look at possible solutions to this humanitarian crisis, Mr. Janowski said. “The Government says it is willing to collaborate with all humanitarian agencies and is establishing an emergency cell to deal with the situation,” he said.