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06.05.2005 Togo

UNHCR estimates 10,572 Togolese refugees in Ghana

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Accra, May 6, GNA- The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has estimated that 10,572 out of the over 20,000 refugees that fled political unrest in neighbouring Togo are in Ghana.

Benin has given a safe haven to the remaining refugees who left the violent stricken West African nation of over five million people, where street battles erupted between security forces and the opposition supporters after the declaration of 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe as winner of the disputed April 24 General Election.

Ms Needa Jehu-Hoyah, UNHCR Information Officer in Ghana told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra on Friday that the Commission was still updating its data on the refugees many of whom cross over to the country in the night and go back to Togo during the day to work. According to a GNA report, The Ghana Immigration Service has registered a total of 12,933 from Togo, comprising mainly women and children.

Mr Robert Quartey, Volta Regional Commander of the Service who disclosed this, gave the breakdown as 10,543 at Aflao, 2,373 at Menuso in the Kadjebi District, eight at Nyive and nine in Ho.

Mr Gnassingbe who was sworn into office on Wednesday, May 4, succeeds his late father Mr Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years and became the continents longest serving leader before he died on February 5.

Mr Gnassingbe, was declared the Head of State by the country's Armed Forces shortly after the death of his father, but was forced to step down to contest the elections following international outcry and threat of sanctions.

The UNHCR says the uneasy calm in the country after the death of over 100 people over differences over the election results is compelling refugees to cross the western border to Ghana and Benin through the eastern corridor.

Ms Jehu-Hoyah said the Ghana Refugees Board was dealing with some 230 Sierra Leoneans who claimed to have crossed over to Ghana from La Cote d' Ivoire to flee the raging political conflict.

She said the Commission had no data on the asylum seekers in Cote d' Ivoire, thus casting doubts over their claims, but however the Ghana Refugee Board was handling the situation.

The Information Officer said the UNHCR had registered some 216 refugees mainly young men in their teens from North/ West Darfur who trekked to Ghana from Chad through Benin and Togo, claiming to be escaping from the Janjaweed Militia.

Ms Jehu-Hoyah said government was screening the refugees to determine the next course of action.

Some 550,000 Darfur refugees are in neighbouring countries while an estimated 6.1 million people are internally displaced in Southern Sudan. Although the conflict in South Sudan officially ended in January 9, last year, between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement and the Army, rampaging militia forces are still hunting down people.

Ms Jehu-Hoyah said the Commissions durable solutions applicable to all refugees in Ghana are: Voluntary Repatriation, Integration and Resettlement.

She said the ultimate decision to resettle a refugee is taken by resettlement governments and not UNHCR. 06 May 05

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