Close to 20,000 Ivorians flee to Liberia: UNHCR

28th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nearly 20,000 Ivorians have fled to eastern Liberia to escape post-election violence which they feared would lead to civil war, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

"To date, UNHCR and the local authorities have recorded a total of 15,120 refugees from villages between Danane and Guiglo in western Cote d'Ivoire, while a further 4,000 arrivals have been reported," said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, a UNHCR spokeswoman, said that while the agency has yet to register the 4,000 other refugees, it had been notified of their arrival by Liberian authorities.

"The refugees are a mixed group of supporters of both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo," said the agency, pointing out that the majority are women and children, with 62 percent under the age of 18.

"They say they fled due to fear that the political deadlock might lead to civil war," noted the UNHCR.

On Saturday, the UN agency said it had registered 14,000 Ivorian refugees.

The growth in refugee population is "putting a strain" on local hosts, said the UNHCR, which added that it is talking to Liberian authorities about the possibility of setting up a camp.

The agency had beefed up its relief supplies over the past two weeks, and had said it could handle up to 30,000 refugees.

Outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara have been locked in a standoff since last month's presidential election which both men claimed to have won, leading to deadly post-election violence.

World powers, the United Nations and the African Union have recognised Ouattara as president and have demanded that Gbagbo stepped down.

On Tuesday, a trio of West African leaders tried to persuade Gbagbo to stand down, warning that force could be used if he refuses to cede power to Ouattara.

© 2010 AFP

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