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Worsening violence in Côte d’Ivoire would be catastrophic, UN refugee agency says

Worsening violence in Côte d’Ivoire would be catastrophic, UN refugee agency says

As fighting spread in northern Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations today warned that an upsurge in violence could spell disaster for tens of thousands of refugees in the area.

“We remain hopeful that a solution can be found in the country that for years has sheltered asylum-seekers from throughout the region,” said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “An implosion could be catastrophic.”

The spokesman voiced the agency’s extreme concern about reports that fighting has spread to the Danane and Man areas, where a majority of the 70,000 Liberian refugees in the country are hosted.

Some of the 30,000 refugees in Danane have reported hearing gunfire yesterday, according to UNHCR. Security concerns prevented the agency from sending staff to the area, which rests along the country’s border with Liberia and Guinea.

”There are several million migrant workers in Côte d’Ivoire who may have to go back to countries that are among the most impoverished and conflict-ridden in Africa,” Mr. Redmond noted. “The Liberian refugees, for example, have nowhere to go.”

According to the agency, some 10,000 Liberian refugees have returned to their country since conflict erupted in Côte d'Ivoire in September. Meanwhile, so far this year, an additional 90,000 people have fled Liberia, where the Government is also fighting an insurgency.

UNHCR has dispatched staff and relief aid to help the new arrivals in Liberia entering from Côte d’Ivoire.