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Sexual Exploitation, Abduction in Toe Town

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Several non-governmental organizations and their workers working with the Ivoirian refugees here have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuses in Grand Gedeh County.

The refugees are being managed by CARITAS, as the overseers, ECREP responsible for sanitation, Red Cross in charge of tracing and unaccompanied children, as well as the UNHCR which is responsible for protection.

According to our corresponden, Johnson Shartey in the region, the abuses have become systematic within every transit point (camps) in Toe Town reportedly by the social workers of some of the organizations managing the refugee camps.

Johnson, quoting sources at the refugee camp, confirmed to this paper that the such activities were taking place at the camps assigned. Our correspondent cited CARITAS, which recently circulated a warning notice to its employees to desist from sexually exploiting and abusing female refugees.

Meanwhile, what appears to be an uncertainty recently gripped 200 Ivoirian refugees here queuing-up at the transit point in Toe Town in readiness to return home (Ivory Coast). Our correspondent quoted the refugees as saying that their stay in Liberia was over, stressing  that there was nothing better than home.

But others are refusing to go on grounds that the would-be returnees were family members of Ouattara’s New Forces rebels who continue to accused many of them (refugees) of being Gbagbo’s supporters.

Johnson said the refugees expressed their unpreparedness to go back home (to Ivory coast) because of the uncertainties there. They also complained about the constant visit to the various camps in the Toe Town area by Ouattara forces to allegedly identify and abduct Gbagbo’s supporters.

“The regular visit to the transit points by Ouattara rebels asking for Gbagbo supporters and taking them away for possible execution across the border was an urgent need for concern; this is causing fear among us and will not permit some of us to return now. The removal of Gbagbo by France and UN troops does not suggest the end of the conflict,” some of the refugees told this paper.

Johnson said the refugees’ concern  followed last Wednesday night, 20 April incident when  six commanders and other fighters of the New forces rebels were transported from the border town of B’hai in Jozon to Toe Town allegedly by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police. Our correspondent quoted a number of refugees as saying that granting of access to the rebels by the ERU (Liberia state security) to the refugee camps was against international refugee norms.

This paper recently reported a trade link between the Ivorian rebels and Emergency Response Unit of the police at the same border. Correspondent Johnson Shartey quoted the Deputy Commander of the ERU as confirming the ‘cordial relations’ which existed between the rebels and them, noting also that they are usually given money by the rebels on the Ivorian side to purchase food and other items.

The Deputy Commander, on orders from his Commander to speak to Journalists who recently visited the area, could not discuss the details of their relationship. Police Director Marc Amblard also told this paper recently, when contacted on the matter, that it was proper for his men to be in such cordiality with the Ivorian rebels.

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