Côte d'Ivoire fighting creates 30,000 new refugees, UN agency reports

Côte d'Ivoire fighting creates 30,000 new refugees, UN agency reports

Fighting in the Danané and Man regions of Côte d'Ivoire has driven more than 30,000 people out of the country over the past week, with most fleeing to Liberia and Guinea, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

In another "alarming development," the agency has lost contact with more than 45,000 mostly Liberian refugees in western Côte d'Ivoire, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told the press in Geneva. Telephone lines have been cut and access to the conflict zone has been barred.

Initial reports suggest that many Liberian refugees who had been sheltering in Côte d'Ivoire are now headed home back to eastern Liberia to escape the violence, according to UNHCR.

Côte d'Ivoire has sheltered 70,000 Liberian and 3,000 Sierra Leonean refugees for years. At least 25,000 refugees and civilians had already left Côte d'Ivoire since fighting broke out in mid-September. Of that number, 19,000 Liberian refugees and 2,000 Ivorians went to Liberia, which is itself torn by rebellion.