In the newly constructed site of Saclepea with a capacity for 10,000 refugees, some Ivorian refugees who are currently occupying the site appealed to Ms. McAskie for more humanitarian assistance. They also expressed their desire to return to Cote d'Ivoire which some fled in late November. Accompanied by UN heads of agencies and government officials, Ms. McAskie said she was aware of their plight and pledged to mobilize resources. The team then traveled to the Karnplay transit center, which hosts Liberian returnees, refugees from Cote d'Ivoire and third country nationals. Representatives of each community described their flight from the outbreak of fighting in Western Cote d'Ivoire in graphic details and said they were grateful to be alive. Some of them were anxious to move away from the border, which remains volatile.
McAskie, who began her mission to the region on 16 January in Cote d'Ivoire, expressed her gratitude to the host communities and the Government of Liberia who have adopted an open-door policy to allow fleeing populations to find refuge in Liberia despite the country's own difficulties. She appealed to Liberians not to get involved in the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire for the sake of stability in the region and to preserve the safety of Liberians and other nationals in Cote d'Ivoire.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, close to 70,000 refugees and returnees had been registered as at 21 January, the bulk of them being Liberian refugees who had been living in western Cote d'Ivoire. However according to the agency, the numbers are increasing and the real number may be much higher as it is impossible to control all entry points.
Appointed by UN Secretary-General on 27 December 2002, McAskie said, during a welcome reception hosted by the UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia, Marc Destanne de Bernis, she was in Liberia to examine Liberia's general humanitarian situation and evaluate the role of the United Nations and the international community in the country. Noting that the international community had been closely following developments in west Africa, Ms. McAskie said the international community had not yet been able to transform early warning indicators into conflict prevention strategies.
The three-day Liberian mission, part of a five-country West African tour, included meetings with the UN Country Team, Liberian government ministers, NGOs and embassies accredited to Liberia.
McAskie, who has already visited Ghana and Burkina Faso, is due to travel to neighboring Guinea. Her visit of these neighbouring countries falls in the framework of examining the impact of the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire on its five immediate neighbours. She was accompanied by the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Support Office for West Africa, Besida Tonwe.