afrol News, 11 February - As the political stalemate in Côte d'Ivoire continues, with regular outbreaks of violence, more than 80,000 Ivorians have already been displaced by the crisis. More are expected if no solution is found.
"Nearly 82,000 people have either been displaced within or outside of Côte d'Ivoire since the crisis began though it is very likely that the true figure is higher," according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is involved in registering the internally displaced and refugees.
The registration of internally displaced people in the west of the country - in particular Duékoué, Danané and Man - indicate so far about 42,000 displaced there.
Another 34,500 are Ivorian refugees currently in camps in Liberia. The other significant area of movement is Mali, where a minimum of 2,585 people have crossed into the country in recent weeks. Out of these, 1,587 were Malian nationals who have largely returned to their home towns and villages. Malians represent the second largest migrant community in Côte d'Ivoire.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,800 Guinean migrants have crossed the border from Côte d'Ivoire in recent weeks. The IOM now says it is looking to see how it can provide reintegration assistance to about 600 of these Guinean returnees.
Finally, there have been registered 78 Ivorian refugees in Ghana. Small numbers of Ivorian refugees have also been registered in Burkina Faso as well as in countries not bordering with Côte d'Ivoire such as Niger, Benin and Togo.
The IOM and the UN's refugee agency UNHCR fear that these large numbers of displaced people only may be the beginning of an even larger humanitarian crisis, as there are now few perspectives of a quick solution to the political stalemate and increased violence in Côte d'Ivoire.
"The longer the crisis continues, the greater the potential for a mass population movement," warned today the IOM's Eugenio Ambrosi. "We are not just talking about Ivorians being displaced, but also migrants," he added.
Côte d’Ivoire is home to more than two million migrants from many countries, particularly its neighbours. "Past experience dictates that we have to be ready to deal with another migration crisis in the region," said Mr Ambrosi, currently in Côte d'Ivoire.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres agrees. He yesterday called for "an urgent end to the political stalemate" to avoid more violence. "The political blockade is becoming more deeply entrenched, causing the humanitarian situation to get worse and worse," Mr Guterres said.
Both the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, have claimed victory in the November election, with the international community recognising Mr Ouattara as the rightful winner. There have been sporadic outbursts of violence causing forced displacements.
Mr Guterres warned that "we face the risk of a possible massive displacement of Ivorians." He noted that this could also have a negative impact on Liberia and other neighbouring countries.
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