The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, is busy trying to provide shelter and safe passage for tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting in Ivory Coast. Many have crossed the border into Liberia.
A spokeswoman for the UNHCR, Delphine Marie, spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua from Geneva. She says about fifty thousand people have crossed from Ivory Coast into Liberia. The vast majority, over thirty thousand, are Liberians who had “once sought asylum.” The rest are Ivorians.
Ms. Marie says the UN agency has been able to transport many of the Liberians to the capital, Monrovia, as well as Nimba County. Four transit centers have been set up in border areas in eastern Liberia. But transport is not being arranged for those from Lofa County because of the fighting there between the Liberian government and rebels. She says most of the Ivorians want to remain near the border so they can return as soon as the fighting stops.
The UNHCR spokeswoman says about fifty to sixty thousand Liberians are still in Ivory Coast. They’ve settled in villages along the border over the past five to ten years and are generally inaccessible to relief efforts because of the fighting. There is the danger the Liberians could be recruited by either side or become victims of xenophobia.
Ms. Marie says the UNHCR hopes to eventually relocate them to safer locations, either west of Abidjan or, ideally, to another country. Negotiations are underway with some West African countries.
In November, the UNHCR “launched an urgent appeal for six million dollars” to deal with the Ivory Coast crisis.