AFRICA/TOGO - Thousands of refugees in Benin: warning from UN High Commission for Refugees

Saturday, 30 April 2005

Rome (Fides Service)- According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR there are 5,754 refugees in Benin, over 600 in Ghana coming from Togo.
Next week UNHCR will end an emergency team of 3 to Benin to boost its presence and a second team of three operators is read to move. UNHCR says 700 refugees mainly women and children were moved from the Hilakondji border between Togo and Benin, to Come camp some 80 km from the capital of Benin Cotonou. Another 600 refugees in the border area have found shelter in a church and the rest are staying with local families. Strong family and tribal bonds exist between people from Togo and Benin and many refugees are helped by the extended family.
The refugees received hot meals thanks to a network of Caritas offices a partner of UNHCR.
UNHCR also assisted 1,200 ‘urban’ refugees of various nationalities mainly from Democratic Congo, Rwanda and Côte d'Ivoire living in Lomé capital of Togo.
Before the elections in Benin UNHCR moved aid for 2,500 persons, blankets, plastic sheeting, water bottles, cooking utensils, from its deposits in the capital of Ghana Accra.
After being closed on April 22, yesterday, the border was opened on both sides. The number of refugees arrived in Ghana is growing slowly and many carry food for several days. They say they do not intend to settle, they only want to wait until the situation improves in their country to return to their own country.
Since February UNHCR has been fully occupied with providing emergency assistance in co-operation with other humanitarian agencies and at the beginning of April it send two emergency experts to Benin and Ghana. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 30/4/2005 righe 31 parole 352