600 Ivorians arriving daily in Liberia

2011-01-11 21:14

Geneva - About 600 Ivory Coast refugees are arriving daily in Liberia, bringing the number of those who have fled fears of violence to the neighbouring country to 25 000, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said onTuesday.

"There are now some 25 000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, with around 600 people arriving daily," said Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

He added that the UNHCR, which had originally set aside sufficient relief supplies for 30 000 refugees, is now "ready to mobilise stocks from Ghana for an additional 30 000 people if the need arises."

The UN agency has begun constructing a new camp that would be able initially to house 18 000 refugees in the eastern Liberian town of Bahn.

"The camp is urgently needed to better protect the refugees and to ease pressure on Liberian communities that have been hosting people in some 23 villages along the border with Cote d'Ivoire," said Edwards.

The refugees, who have been pouring out of their country since the post-election crisis at the end of November, told officials that they were "fleeing fear of violence rather than actual violence against them," he noted.

He added that the agency aims to finish building a reception area at the Bahn site which would provide services such as water and sanitation over the next two weeks.

In the meanwhile, the UNHCR is distributing plastic sheeting, blankets, mats, kitchen sets and other household items.

At least 200 people have died in the political crisis sparked by Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to stand down despite a vote which the Independent Electoral Commission, UN and most of the world said his rival Alassane Ouattara won.

On Tuesday, Gbagbo's party rejected an offer from Ouattara to form a unity cabinet to end the political crisis.