Ivory Coast refugees in Liberia top 31,000: UN

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The number of Ivory Coast refugees who have arrived in neighbouring Liberia has topped the 31,000 mark, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday, adding that more aid will be flown in for them.

"According to our latest registration figures, there are now 31,339 Ivorian refugees in eastern Liberia who have fled post election violence and tensions in Cote d'Ivoire," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spoksman Andrej Mahecic said.

"The vast majority of the refugees are women and children and in most cases they are finding shelter in the border villages and live side by side with the local communities."

A few hundred more Ivorians have fled to Guinea, Togo and Mali, he said.

A UNHCR-chartered aircraft is expected to arrive on Sunday in the Liberian capital Monrovia with some 83 tonnes of aid, including blankets, mats, jerricans, kitchen sets and tarpaulins, Mahecic added.

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

However the United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) said Thursday that at least 271 people have been killed since the presidential stand-off escalated in mid-December.

The toll includes those killed during the crisis pitting incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to step down as president, against Alassane Ouattara, recognised internationally as the winner of November polls.

It also includes victims of ethnic unrest in the west of the country earlier this month.

© 2011 AFP

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