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Ivory Coast fighting sparks fresh influx of refugees in Liberia

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Benoit Matsha-Carpentier/International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/Reuters

(Read caption) Children arrive at a transit camp for refugees who fled the post-election violence in Ivory Coast, in Zorgowee, Liberia, April 5. More than 125,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia, while 7,000 have crossed into Ghana, 1,700 into Togo, and about 1,000 into Guinea, according to the UNHCR.

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As Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo continues to hide inside a bunker under the presidential palace in Abidjan, many of his country’s citizens face an even more perilous ordeal.

Over the past four months, more than 120,000 people have fled Ivory Coast for neighboring Liberia to escape the violence in their home country. A large number of those refugees have now been away from home for months; Oxfam warned recently that their living conditions have become “dangerously inadequate.”

Back in January, I went up to Liberia’s border with Ivory Coast to report on the situation for the Monitor. At the time, some 30,000 refugees had been registered in Liberia. Three months later, the figure has quadrupled.

When I was there, the United Nations and other aid agencies had just begun clearing land for a refugee camp near the dusty town of Bahn, about 30 miles from the border with Ivory Coast. The camp was finished in February; refugees were invited to move in.

But so far only 2,500 people have chosen to settle in the camp, even though it was built to accommodate six times that many. The rest are staying near the border, filling into the homes of Liberian villagers who, for the most part, have welcomed them with open arms.

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