Don’t Forget Africa’s Other Displacement Crisis, Says IOM
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 1, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM Press Briefing Note
With more than 129,500 people now displaced within and across the borders of Cote d’Ivoire and the situation worsening on a daily basis, IOM is calling on the international community not to forget Africa’s other displacement crisis.
Renewed fighting in western Cote d’Ivoire and in Abidjan itself has led to an estimated 50,000 people now displaced in Danane, Duekoue and Man. At least 20,000 estimated people have been forcibly displaced in Abidjan following clashes late last week. IOM, UNHCR and other partners are trying to further assess levels of displacement in the city but security conditions and the targeting of humanitarian workers are making the work extremely difficult.
IOM staff on the ground in the west of the country who are registering and assisting the internally displaced (IDPs) in this area along with several partners, say the displaced are increasingly spreading out over a larger area in order to avoid further targeting. This is making it harder to access and assist them as the situation in the region continues to deteriorate.
However, more people are now crossing daily into Liberia from the region. With more than 62,000 Ivorian refugees, Liberian returnees and third country nationals from Cote d’Ivoire now believed to be in Liberia, IOM is strengthening its operational capacity on the ground there.
An IOM team has been deployed to Saclepea and Harper in northern and southern Liberia to identify Liberian returnees and third country nationals who would have crossed from Cote d’Ivoire. With Ivorian refugees, Liberian returnees and third country nationals believed to be spread across 70 villages along the border in Nimba county alone, IOM staff will go village by village to check if there are Liberian returnees and third country nationals being hosted there and what help they need.
However, the tracking of and assistance to migrants is a race against time as the rainy season is due to start any time soon in the region.
“IOM and humanitarian partners are all working with minimal funding to respond to this humanitarian crisis. Conditions are deteriorating as the conflict escalates. We need the international community not to forget what is happening here and help us to help those who are frightened and in need,” says Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM’s Special Envoy for the Cote d’Ivoire crisis.
Elsewhere, IOM has established a presence in Takoradi close to the border between Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire to monitor the situation at the border and to provide immediate assistance to migrants fleeing from the West African country. IOM staff at the border say that the number of people crossing into Ghana has dropped recently due to increased roadblocks and a high incidence of robbery within Cote d’Ivoire. Those arriving have nothing left and are in urgent need of both humanitarian assistance and transport to a reception centre near Takoradi.
As well as nearly 6,200 Ghanaian migrants having returned home, the country has 106 Ivorian refugees while several hundred third country nationals have transited through Ghana on their way home. IOM has assisted a small group of nearly 20 Guineans to return home.
In Mali, nearly 7,750 people have crossed the border since the crisis began. Although the majority of them – 4,755 – are Malian returnees, the country is hosting 1,560 Ivorian refugees and 1,435 migrants of other nationalities.
IOM staff at the Malian-Ivorian border say those crossing are mainly from the north of the country and cite a number of reasons for leaving. This includes a lack of basic necessities, health facilities, schools closing, harassment and hardship. The returnees say more people are planning on leaving Cote d’Ivoire but are waiting to see how things develop whilst others want to leave but don’t have the means to do so.
Some refugees and migrants have reached Bamako, the capital, where a pastor of a local church has contacted IOM to report that several migrants and Ivorian nationals have arrived there seeking refuge with more due to arrive soon.
Guinea has also seen more than 2,500 returnees and Ivorian refugees cross its border in the past weeks while Burkina Faso to the north has seen 3,000 people arrive.
International Office of Migration (IOM)