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UN Says Number of Refugees Fleeing Togo Down

UN Says Number of Refugees Fleeing Insecurity in Togo Down Sharply

New York, May 6 2005 12:00PM

The number of people fleeing violence since last month's presidential election in Togo has slowed down sharply, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the major border crossing points into Benin and Ghana – which together now host some 22,600 Togolese – were reported calm and quiet as of last night.

There were 355 new arrivals yesterday at Hilakondji, in Benin, and 218 arrivals in Aflao, Ghana. Since 26 April, UNHCR in Ghana has recorded 10,681 Togolese refugees, while in Benin some 12,000 refugees have been registered – including a single group of 321 refugees who arrived in Benin's capital, Cotonou. The agency is currently verifying that this group had not previously been registered at Hilakondji.

These refugees told UNHCR they intended to stay with relatives, but they needed some assistance, particularly schooling for their children. UNHCR estimates that at least a third of the Togolese refugees in Cotonou were attending school when they fled the country. Some were preparing for exams and the agency will be discussing with educational authorities in Benin how best to help them.

UNHCR said that while two-thirds of the Togolese in Benin were staying with host families, nearly 3,500 others have been transferred to the camps of Come, which is now full, and Lokossa in the southwest. An additional 300 refugees were staying at the Hilakondji border in church grounds. Lokossa camp, built on a 40-acre site surrounded by palm trees, is being cleared and levelled to make room for up to 5,000 refugees. The site could be extended further if necessary. Meanwhile, some 600 other refugees were staying with relatives in Cotonou.

A convoy of eight UNHCR trucks carrying supplies for up to 5,000 people arrived Wednesday in Benin from Ghana and was being unloaded yesterday at a warehouse in Lokossa, near the camp. The aid supplies included tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, mats, jerry cans, kitchen sets and soap.

For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided each of the two camps with 2 tons of maize, a ton of beans and the same quantity of oil. The food is being distributed and now most refugees can cook their own meals for the first time since they arrived in Benin.

Improvements in the camps were continuing with the installation of more latrines, showers and additional water taps. Measures were also being taken to make recreational space for the children, who make up half of the refugee population. UNHCR was planning to open a field office in Lokossa today to better manage the sprawling camp.

ENDS

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