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Fear Drives 10,000 Liberians To Cross Border Into Sierra Leone - 2003-05-20

The UN refugee agency says over the past three days, more than ten thousand Liberians have crossed the border into Ivory Coast. The UNHCR says the influx of refugees follows renewed fears of attacks by rebels of the “Movement for Democracy in Liberia,” or “MODEL.”

Astrid Van Genderen Stort is the spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Ivory Coast. From Abidjan, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons Liberians are crossing the border into Ivory Coast. She says there are reports of an official in Liberia’s River Gee County being tortured by unknown attackers, as well as reports that MODEL rebels have taken the main town of Harper in southeastern Maryland County. She says the UNHCR is appealing to rebels to protect the civilian population.

Due to instability in both Liberia and Ivory Coast, refugees have been crossing back and force between the two countries for months.

In Ivory Coast, Ms. Van Genderen Stort says the UN agency has not been able to reach at least 20 thousand refugees in the western part of the country. She says western Ivory Coast remains very insecure due to fighting involving loyalist forces, rebels and mercenaries. She says it’s frustrating to humanitarian workers because they are unable to do their jobs. As a result, she says, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering.

Click the above links to download or listen to De Capua interview on refugees.