SLUG: 2-297452 UNHCR / Ivory Coast (L-O)
TITLE=UNHCR / IVORY COAST (L-O)
INTRO: A senior official from the United Nations Refugee Agency, U-N-H-C-R, has gone to West Africa to investigate the crisis in Ivory Coast. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports the U-N-H-C-R says it also is drawing up plans to evacuate thousands of refugees from the war torn country.
TEXT: Assistant U-N High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane is in charge of operations worldwide. He will meet with government officials and aid agencies during his visit to Ivory Coast to discuss humanitarian operations.
At the same time, a U-N-H-C-R team has gone to Guiglo, in western Ivory Coast, to re-establish contact with thousands of refugees stranded by fighting in the region. Earlier this week, the agency closed its office in Guiglo and recalled its staff to safer locations, following security threats in the area.
U-N-H-C-R Spokesman Kris Janowski says the mission also will assess the most urgent needs in the area and look at options for a possible evacuation of refugees out of the country.
/// JANOWSKI ACT///
We have a group of five-thousand refugees, for example, near Guiglo that we are trying to reach in a place called Nicla. These are actually Liberians who cannot really go back to Liberia so this is a difficult group. We have to somehow bring them to a safer place without being able to actually repatriate them to Liberia. We are talking here five-thousand. But, we are also talking other groups. This all depends on how the situation evolves.
When fighting broke out two weeks ago in the border areas of rebel-held western Ivory Coast, aid workers were excluded from the battle zone. As a result, Mr. Janowski says, his agency has been out of contact with about 45-thousand, mostly Liberian refugees in the area. Some are believed to have crossed back into Liberia.
Before fighting erupted between government and rebel forces in September, about 70-thousand Liberians found refuge in Ivory Coast. An estimated 30-thousand of them since have gone home. (Signed)
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