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UNHCR: Keep The Borders Around Ivory Coast Open - 2002-12-03

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, is calling on West African countries “to keep their borders open to innocent civilians” threatened by the fighting in Ivory Coast.

The UNHCR is warning of a “looming humanitarian crisis.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers says, “I urge all the parties to exercise restraint. We cannot afford to see more misery in the region.”

English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua spoke with UNHCR spokesman Chris Janowski about the situation in Ivory Coast. He says, “People who are actually forced to flee should be allowed to enter these countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) and in fact people have been trickling into these countries.”

Mr. Janowski says within Abidjan tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and have been displaced. He says the UNHCR is not able to reach all the refugees in border areas such as Danane, Man and Toulepleu. In recent years, Ivory Coast has given shelter to seventy thousand Liberian and three thousand Sierra Leonean refugees.