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UNHCR: Destruction  of Shantytowns in Ivory Coast Still a Concern

The United Nations refugee agency is welcoming a statement by Ivory Coast's president ordering a halt, at least temporarily, to the demolition of shantytowns in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city. But U.N. officials say, despite the statement by President Laurent Gbagbo, the destruction of the shantytowns is continuing in some areas of Abidjan.

A refugee agency spokesman, Peter Kessler, pointed out the call by President Gbagbo to stop the demolitions has only been partially heeded.

"We remain concerned about continuing demolition in some areas - around military installations, for example, which is creating more displacement," he said.

Mr. Kessler added the refugee agency is considering offering voluntary repatriation to Sierra Leone's and moving other refugees to camps in Ivory Coast's northwest.

The demolitions began last month, after the rebel uprising against the government. Since then, government forces have been burning down the shantytowns where the foreigners live.

U.N. officials say most of those in the shantytowns are from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Kessler said the refugee agency is also concerned that other foreigners, such as guest workers from Burkina Faso, are coming under assault elsewhere in the country.

"There have been reports in recent days of some 5,000 Burkinabe on the move," he said. "There are people, of course, reportedly who have fled the cocoa growing regions around Yrzon, others, of course, have fled to Man."

The U.N. refugee agency says about 2,300 people have fled Ivory Coast for Mali and an undetermined number have sought refuge in Ghana and Liberia.