AFRICA/COTE D'IVOIRE-More than 200 000 Ivorian refugees: 15 000 in the Salesian mission of Duékoué

Abidjan (Fides Service) - During the last three weeks the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and partner agencies have registered 322,277 internally displaced persons in Côte d'Ivoire. The displaced people are in camps or are welcomed by families. Most of them are concentrated in the western part of the country (132,188), followed by the northern regions (62 676) and the city of Abidjan (55 912) in the south. Others are still hiding in the woods. According to the local communities, in some of the worst areas hit by the fighting, conditions for the return have improved. In areas of Zouan-Hounien and Teapleu, in western Côte d'Ivoire, for example, there are improvements in security conditions. But local tensions are still sparked off in the south-west region of Sassandra. This is the area in which 280 civilians fleeing from Abidjan were killed by pro-Gbagbo groups of mercenaries in early May. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves. In five villages more than 500 homes and a pharmacy were destroyed.
It is estimated that the IDPs in the region are about 17 000, including an unknown number of people still hiding in the forest. In the Salesian Mission in Duékoué there are still 15 thousand refugees. The Salesian missionary César Fernández said, through the Mission Office in Madrid, that houses are burned and destroyed. There are many signs of bullets, people with a sad look, some cases without hope. The UNHCR has already developed a plan to create a refugee camp with acceptable sanitary conditions, as well as the "Misiones Salesianas" we had asked in March. Many people, however, as attested by the missionaries of Duékoué, do not want to leave the mission for fear of reprisals. More than 400 families, only in the Carrefour neighborhood of Duékoué, have lost homes and property and have nowhere to go. The mission is still protected by the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI). In the coming days the transfer of refugees is expected. "It is expected that 800 people will leave from the mission, but it will take more than five months to return to normality", say the missionaries. The Ivorian refugees in several West African countries are still more than 200 000. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/07/2011)

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