Ivory Coast: May 12, 2003


: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Rudd Lubbers met with President Gbagbo and other senior Ivorian officials, to discuss the fate of Liberian refugees (there are an estimated 9,000 in Nicla camp alone). Known locally as "Limas", around 200 of the young men (and some children) among the Guiglo refugee camp's 9,000 inhabitants were recruited by the Ivorian government to fight the rebels and died in combat. Their nickname comes from the radio call sign for the letter "L" , which stands for Liberian.

Many of the Guiglo fighters had also been sent across the nearby border to join rebels fighting Liberia's President Charles Taylor. Lubbers is trying to defuse local animosity against the displaced persons. The human rights group Refugees International (RI) estimated that at least 400,000 "foreigners" had fled the fighting in the Ivory Coast alone. For an idea of what countries have a stake in protecting their people, that figure includes about 200,000 Burkinabe, 70,000 Guineans, 48,000 Malians, and 44,000 Liberians. However, the term "foreigners" is a misnomer since many of those were born or raised in the Ivory Coast.

As part of his eight-day, five-nation mission to West Africa, Lubbers will meet leaders from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to discuss similar problems that plaque the entire region. - Adam Geibel

Details about West Africa's refugee problem are available at: www.refintl.org


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