U.N. says 14,000 flee Ivory Coast for Liberia

Reuters, Sunday 26 Dec 2010

A political standstill in the West African State makes a humanitarian crisis inevitable in the volatile region

About 14,000 refugees have fled Ivory Coast to seek refuge in eastern Liberia after post-election violence, the United Nations refugee agency said on Saturday.

The standoff after the Nov. 28 presidential election between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara, has killed nearly 200 people and threatened to rekindle a 2002-03 civil war which could destabilise the west African region.

"The humanitarian needs are increasing for the mostly women and children refugees as well as for the villagers hosting them," the UNHCR said on its website, adding the number of refugees were growing.

UNHCR said food supplies were running short despite efforts by the Liberian government and aid agencies to bring in more.

The U.N. refugee agency said it was concerned about reports that some members of the Forces Nouvelles, which controls the north of Ivory Coast since the civil war, are preventing people from crossing freely into Liberia, causing refugees to deviate their route by up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) southward.

"UNHCR is calling for the protection of civilians and respect for the right to seek asylum without hindrance," it said.

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