UN refugee agency urges Côte d’Ivoire’s Government to minimize displacement

UN refugee agency urges Côte d’Ivoire’s Government to minimize displacement

Responding to the ongoing razing of shantytowns in Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations refugee agency today urged the country’s Government to protect all affected civilians.

“We understand the Government’s security concerns, but are appealing to the authorities to minimize displacement and identify alternative and secure sites for those made homeless by the destruction,” said Delphine Marie, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Earlier this month, President Laurent Gbagbo announced that the ongoing razing of shantytowns in Abidjan would be restricted to areas surrounding military installations, but with the practice – and general instability – persisting, UNHCR is making contingency plans for widespread regional displacement. Ms. Marie said the agency would establish a regional stockpile in Accra, Ghana with supplies for up to 20,000 people.

“We are mainly concerned about the possibility of Ivorians seeking asylum in neighbouring countries,” she said. “We’re also worried that large numbers of Liberian refugees could spontaneously return to areas of Liberia which are largely inaccessible, or that they might seek asylum in a third country.”

There are presently more than 72,000 registered refugees in Côte d’Ivoire, most of them from Liberia and about 2,000 from Sierra Leone. UNHCR is organizing the repatriation by airlift of 40 Sierra Leonean refugees who became homeless during recent the turmoil in Abidjan.