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IOM resumes humanitarian evacuation of stranded migrants from Cote d'Ivoire

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An IOM convoy of nine buses carrying a total of 639 Malian and Mauritanian migrants has reached the northern town of Bouaké, after leaving the economic capital Abidjan on Saturday, 16th March.

This is the first evacuation carried out by IOM since the end of March when intense fighting in Abidjan brought all operations to a halt.

IOM staff say the resumption comes after a period of relative calm and improved security in Abidjan, which continues to experience acute fuel shortages and where many shops in the business district of Plateau remain closed.

Prior to the stoppage, IOM had provided repatriation assistance to more than a thousand Mauritanian migrants from Cote d'Ivoire to their homes, and was in the process of evacuating an additional 400 Malians.

However, street fighting in the vicinity of the Mauritanian and Malian embassies in the districts of Cocody and Deux Plateaux, where hundreds of migrants had taken refuge, meant that the departure of the convoy had to be cancelled.

On the 14th April, after a lull in fighting in Abidjan, an IOM team went to the embassies where they found 357 Malians and 282 Mauritanians awaiting evacuation. Among them are 24 women and 36 children.

The team described the condition of the migrants as deeply worrying, having endured two weeks in a cramped basement area without fresh air or adequate food and water.

Four of the migrants had sustained bullet injuries and were taken to a French hospital in Abidjan for treatment.

The four buses carrying the Mauritanians left Bouaké yesterday for the two-day trip to the Malian capital, Bamako, where an IOM team will organize their onward journey to the southern Mauritanian towns of Al Oyun and Neema.

The convoy of five buses carrying Malian migrants is expected to leave Bouaké later today and will make a stop at the border town of Zegoua in Mali, where an IOM team and Malian authorities will accompany the convoy to the capital, Bamako.

In January, four countries - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Liberia - had formally requested the IOM to assist their nationals to return to their respective countries.

IOM is also working with national disaster agencies in all neighbouring countries including Guinea and Ghana to assist in the reception and reintegration of returning nationals from Ivory Coast.

Before the crisis in Ivory Coast, an estimated 40,000 Mauritanians were living and working in the country. IOM was also made aware by the Malian ambassador to Abidjan of about 20,000 Malian nationals requiring evacuation assistance. IOM estimates that at least 100,000 stranded migrants in Ivory Coast will need assistance.

Meanwhile, 840 migrants and Ivorian nationals seeking refuge in Liberia have arrived at the border town of Harper in Liberia's Maryland region in the last two weeks. IOM team on the ground, which took part in their screening and registration, say there is an immediate and urgent need at Harper town for water, food, medicine and other life saving assistance.

The IOM team has received and repatriated seventy-four Guinean nationals to Conakry. Assistance was also provided by the IOM for eleven Ghanaians who travelled to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, from where IOM will assist them to return to their country.

IOM has appealed for US$ 41.6 million to carry out a range of operations including assisting IDPs, third country nationals and stranded migrants in Cote d'Ivoire.

To date, the Organization has received US$ 1.8 million from the US Government's bureau of Population Refugee and Migration (PRM), the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund and from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

For more information please contact Jean-Philippe Chauzy, Tel. +41.79 285 43 66, Email: pchauzy@iom.int or Jumbe Omari Jumbe, Tel. +41 79 812 77 34, Email: jjumbe@iom.int

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