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'Dramatic Slowdown' in Togolese Refugees, Says UNHCR

The number of refugees leaving Togo has “slowed dramatically,” according to the UN refugee agency. At last count, more than 23,000 Togolese refugees were in neighboring Benin and Ghana.

\The influx began after last month’s presidential elections, which triggered violence when Faure Gnassingbe was declared the winner. He’s the son of long time ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in February.

Jennifer Pagonis is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua, “The situation now is they’re beginning to slow down the influx into both Benin and into Ghana. And in Ghana it’s slowed down particularly and we’re even beginning to notice that some refugees are returning home there. That’s not the case in Benin. Seems to be quite a contrast here. Most refugees there are saying they don’t want to go back to Togo and there’s been no signs of returns. But the number of arrivals has slowed down considerably.”

It’s unclear why the influx has slowed. Of the 23, 300 Togolese refugees 12, 483 are in Benin and 10, 856 in Ghana.

Ms. Pagonis says, In Benin a lot of the refugees claim and show signs of being beaten and they feel very insecure about the situation and say that they don’t want to return under the current political circumstances. In Ghana, it seems a slightly different situation. We’ve had a lot of refugees who’ve come over and who’ve been staying with friends and family, extended family in the region. Some of them have been going back to work in Lome during the day then coming back to sleep in Ghana at night.”

In Benin, however, some of the refugees who have been staying with extended families are now opting to go to camps set up by the UNHCR.