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Thousands of Displaced People Face Eviction in Ivory Coast

The International Organization for Migration says thousands of internally displaced people are facing eviction from camps in Ivory Coast. The IOM says many of these people are fearful of returning to the homes they abandoned during the West African nation's post-election crisis and are in urgent need of shelter.

The International Organization for Migration says 14 camps for internally displaced people have been closed in the past few months due to evictions. This has forced 800 families to find other camps in which to live or to seek shelter with host communities.

The IOM says another 1,250 families are under imminent threat of eviction in 15 other displacement camps. The agency says private owners of empty buildings, including churches and schools, who want to regain their property are putting pressure on people to leave the camps.

IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, tells VOA most of the people who have been evicted from their campsites are reluctant to return to their original homes.

"Why people are not returning is because… they either do not have homes to go back to or because they fear that in the villages where they were before, where they had land in which they were working, which during the conflict was taken over by other people-that if they go back to those home villages, they essentially will be in conflict and face reprisals from those who have taken over their land and property," said Jemini Pandya.

Fighting between supporters of the two rivals erupted after former president Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the presidential election at the end of 2010, refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, the universally acclaimed winner. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during the political standoff. Tens of thousands of Ivorians fled to neighboring countries.

At the peak of the post-election conflict in April, an estimated 600,000 people were sheltering in displacement camps in western Ivory Coast and areas near the commercial capital, Abidjan. The IOM says that number has dropped significantly since the resolution of the political crisis, to nearly 26,000 people in 35 sites.

Spokeswoman Pandya says this news is not as good as it appears.

"No one really knows the number of people who are living with host communities," she said. "These are people who were displaced, but instead of going to a displacement site went and sought shelter with other families. But, the humanitarian community that is working in Cote d’Ivoire, believe that this figure is very high. But, tracing these displaced groups is extremely difficult. IOM is concerned about the conditions in which the IDPs are living at the sites and those who also have returned to home villages, even if their homes have been destroyed."

Pandya says most of the displaced are living in makeshift shelters, which offer little protection from the short rainy season that is beginning. She says these people are in desperate need of shelter. And, while the IOM is ready to assist them, she says the organization does not have sufficient financial resources to respond to their needs.

Pandya says the IOM has received less that $4 million of the $41.6 million appeal it launched early this year.