U.N. Warns of Danger for Liberian Refugees At Sea
Jun. 07, 1996
GENEVA (AP) _ U.N. aid workers were on the lookout Friday for a Russian boat crammed with Liberian refugees that has been sailing the coast of West Africa for 13 days seeking permission to dock.
The vessel, the Zolotisa, left the war-ravaged Liberian capital of Monrovia with an estimated 450 people on board, including many women and children, according to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees.
It was running out of food and water, and health and sanitary conditions on board were ``dramatic,'' said an agency spokesman, Ron Redmond.
Redmond said the boat was believed to be headed towards Benin or Nigeria, since it has already been refused entry into Ghana or Togo. He said his information came from reliable witnesses.
Redmond said the U.N. agency was in contact with the governments of Benin and Nigeria and had asked Nigeria to let the agency put the refugees in a camp that already shelters about 3,000 Liberian refugees.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said, ``We hope very much that either Togo or Benin or the government of Nigeria will take action to allow this refugee ship to dock.''
``These people are suffering. We cannot discount the possibility that some of these people may perish if this ship is allowed to drift on the high seas and not allowed to come into port,'' Burns said.
The boat departed Monrovia on May 26. About half its passengers are Liberian, about 135 are Ghanaian, 50 are Nigerian and the rest are from other African nations, Redmond said.
Last month, a leaking freighter loaded with 2,000 people was forced to ply the high seas for days before being accepted in Ghana.
The situation in Monrovia has calmed since last month's bloody factional fighting. However, with much of the capital in ruins, many inhabitants are still trying to flee.