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Refugees Begin Returning To Ivory Coast, Citing Breakdown Of Law And Order In Parts Of Liberia - 2003-04-11


In West Africa, refugees are becoming hard pressed to find safe haven. During months of civil war in Ivory Coast, about 95 thousand people of different ethnic origins had crossed the border into Liberia. But now, conditions in Liberia are worsening and refugees are starting to return to Ivory Coast.

Delphine Marie is a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua. She describes the situation “as a sad twist in West Africa’s history that people who have been displaced and displaced are yet again forced to flee.”

She says a UNHCR team visited a border post between Liberia and Ivory Coast and were told about 60 people a day were returning to Ivory Coast. She says, therefore, there’s reason to believe this is happening at many other border crossings as well.

She says the UN agency is also trying to verify reports that about two thousand people in eastern Liberia are also heading for the Ivory Coast border near Tabou. Ms. Marie says refugees have reported a “breakdown of law and order” especially in Grand Gedeh County as well as in Nimba and Maryland Counties. She says most people are coming from Grande Gedeh, Zwedru and ToeTown.

A second relatively new Liberian rebel movement has been reported in the area attacking civilians. LURD rebels have already been operating for several years.

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