Côte d’Ivoire: UN refugee agency concerned over collapse of ceasefire talks

Côte d’Ivoire: UN refugee agency concerned over collapse of ceasefire talks

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced its concern at ongoing developments in Côte d’Ivoire following the collapse of ceasefire negotiations over the weekend.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced its concern at ongoing developments in Côte d’Ivoire following the collapse of ceasefire negotiations over the weekend.

According to a spokesperson for the agency, the breakdown of the talks on Sunday has led to renewed fighting around the country and a continuation of a government-sanctioned programme to raze shantytowns in Abidjan, which has displaced thousands of local residents and foreigners, including refugees.

While the governor of Abidjan announced on Friday that the burning of shanty towns was expected to be completed in one month, the Minister of Human Rights, during a visit to UNHCR’s office in the city the same day, said the demolition would be suspended for 10 days, spokesperson Delphine Marie told reporters in Geneva.

The Minister told the agency that the move was not an operation against foreigners, as many Ivorians have also been affected, and that refugees have always been welcome in Côte d’Ivoire and remained so.

“There is still no suspension, however,” Ms. Marie noted. “Such a suspension would be welcomed because it would give humanitarian agencies some more time to find alternative accommodation for the thousands of people, including migrants, refugees and Ivorians, who are being displaced daily.”

Meanwhile, worsening conditions in another major city, Bouaké, including lack of water, electricity and food supplies, have prompted many residents to flee, the spokesperson said. “According to the Red Cross, between 150,000 and 200,000 residents of Bouaké have fled in recent days to escape fighting and insecurity,” she said. “Most of them are believed to have sought shelter with families of relatives in other parts of the country.”

The situation along the borders between Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries remained tense and left the future of 72,000 refugees in Côte d’Ivoire uncertain, Ms. Marie said. UNHCR sub-offices in Guiglo and Tabou reported some movement across the borders towards Liberia, but there has been no large-scale population transfers.