UNHCR warns of massive displacement in I. Coast

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The UN refugee agency warned Tuesday of a massive wave of displacement if Ivory Coast fails to resolve a political stalemate.

"The political deadlock is causing widespread fear and, if not resolved, could result in displacement on a massive scale," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UN agency said it has registered some 38,600 displaced people in western Ivory Coast, some of whom said they were victims of attacks in December or January.

"Some IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the west have reported physical and sexual violence, as well as arbitrary detention by armed groups acting with impunity," said Fleming.

"Fear of retaliation combined with the absence or paralysis of judicial institutions has prevented many people from reporting such abuses," she added.

A new camp with a capacity of 6,000 people is being built to house the displaced, many of whom have been living on the generosity of local families and charities, said the UN agency.

Some families are hosting up to 25 displaced people each, noted Fleming.

"We are looking for additional sites to accommodate more IDPs," she added.

The West African nation have been in the grips of a political crisis since strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to stand down as president and hand over power to Alassane Ouattara after the November 28 elections.

© 2011 AFP

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