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UNHCR: New Refugee Crisis Brewing as Hundreds of Togolese Flee Country

FILE - A man holds up a sign, which reads: "Faure still how many death by you," during an opposition protest calling for the immediate resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe in Lome, Togo, Sept. 6, 2017.

The U.N refugee agency says a potential crisis may be developing as hundreds of Togolese refugees flee political instability and escalating violence.

More than 500 Togolese have recently arrived in Ghana seeking asylum, according to the UNHCR.

"Togolese seeking safety, including women and children, told UNHCR staff earlier this month that they had fled on foot, walking from their homes in Togo's Mango region, bordering Ghana. They said they were fleeing human rights abuses after the recent political protests," said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch.

At least 10 people have been killed in anti-government protests in Togo since August. Opponents are calling on President Faure Gnassingbe to step down and for a return to the 1992 constitution, which imposes term limits.

The president took power in 2005 and, under the current law, can run for re-election until 2030. The opposition considers that unacceptable and is demanding electoral reform.

Baloch tells VOA the UNHCR is concerned that, if the situation is not resolved, Africa may be facing another refugee crisis.

"Togo's neighboring countries are quite worried that if the situation is not resolved soon, maybe more people would flee," Baloch said. "That is why they have approached the U.N. refugee agency to prepare themselves for any further refugee arrivals."

Baloch says nearly 30 asylum-seekers reportedly have arrived recently in northern Benin. He says it is not clear whether that is related to the current instability in Togo. So far, there are no reports of asylum-seekers arriving in Burkina Faso.