The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says it plans to launch a regional project to help some 21,500 third-country nationals displaced by the Ivorian crisis and stranded in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Ghana to return to their countries of origin.
The largest operation would target Liberia, where IOM plans to facilitate the return home of 11,000 people, mainly to Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, the agency said in a press briefing on Friday. The displaced, who are now living in towns along the border with Cote d'Ivoire, also include some Ivorians. They had fled western Cote d'Ivoire when armed fighting broke out there in late 2002.
The displaced West Africans are referred to as 'third-country nationals' because they were not among the refugees - mainly from Liberia - who traditionally benefitted from humanitarian assistance in Cote d'Ivoire.
IOM also plans to assist some 9,500 third-country nationals stranded in towns in western Cote d'Ivoire.
In Ghana, it will target a group of 1,000 people, mainly from Burkina Faso, who spent "harsh" weeks in Liberia before fleeing to Accra on fishing boats in the hope of making it back to their home country.
The governments of Canada and The Netherlands have provided funding for the operation. IOM has appealed for US $4 million to conduct other relief activities across the region.
In other news, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has appointed a Regional Coordinator of UNHCR's Operations in the Liberian and Cote d'Ivoire Refugee Situations. According to UNHCR, the idea is to have a coherent and optimum response - involving the respective governments and all humanitarian partners - to the two refugee situations.
UNHCR's representative in Sierra Leone, Arnaud Akodjenou, has been appointed to the post for an initial six months, UNHCR said.