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Following three-day suspension, UN refugee agency resumes partial operations in Côte d’Ivoire

Following three-day suspension, UN refugee agency resumes partial operations in Côte d’Ivoire

The United Nations refugee agency has resumed most of its operations in Côte d’Ivoire after violent protests in Abidjan over a proposed peace accord and a climate of insecurity throughout the region forced a three-day suspension earlier in the week.

According to a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since a partial resumption on Wednesday, another 235 Liberian refugees have been transported from Tabou, in western Côte d'Ivoire, across the Cavaly River to Liberia.

“Another 300 are scheduled to cross today, bringing the number of returns since the emergency return began on 17 January to over 1,400,” Ron Redmond said, adding that more than 1,700 refugees are still awaiting repatriation in the Tabou area.

“Refugees are still being targeted in various parts of the country and we remain very concerned about the general security situation,” Mr. Redmond said. Many refugees, increasingly worried following recent developments in the country, have asked to be transported as quickly as possible to Liberia.

Many are so desperate that they have asked UNHCR to simply arrange for free passage past several vigilante checkpoints on the 30-km stretch of road between Tabou and Prollo, a town on the Côte d'Ivoire side of the border river. “They say they can do without immediate assistance on the Liberian side,” Mr. Redmond added.

Meanwhile, UNHCR reports that hundreds of Liberian refugees, many of them chased from their homes by angry Ivorians who accuse them of siding with the rebels, have been stopped at the checkpoints in recent weeks and prevented from leaving the country. In one such incident this week, a group of 25 Liberian men was apprehended by young vigilantes at a church in Tabou, verbally abused and threatened with death. After UNHCR and government refugee officials intervened, the men were released. The men will be repatriated by UNHCR, together with their families.