We are at the Avepozo camp, located in the suburbs of Lomé, the Togolese capital. It is here that Jean-Christophe Dion and thousands of compatriots took refuge when their country, the Ivory Coast, was shaken by the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011.
However, it is time to leave, because the end of June 2022 will mark the end of their refugee status. Here, many are faced with a dilemma: to leave or to stay in Togo where they have rebuilt everything.
“Given what we have been through, fear made us decide to stay here for a little while.explains Pierre-Christophe Dion. We won’t stay here forever, we’ll be back sooner or later.”
On Thursday, 189 passports were given to Ivorians who wanted to stay in Togo by the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Ivorian government to facilitate their repatriation or local integration.
“Our refugee cards will be deactivated so if we don’t have an administrative document, we won’t even be able to access a small microfinance facility or go to the bank for small operations”laments Pierre-Christophe Dion.
The cessation of refugee status for Ivorians is a recommendation from the UNHCR which justifies its decision by the stability found in Côte d’Ivoire.
“UNHCR remains committed to supporting the process that will culminate with the granting of privileged residence permits in Togo for 10 years, explains Monique Atayi-Koussi, Head of the UNHCR Togo office.
Since 2011, some 290,000 Ivorian refugees have settled in other West African countries. In Togo, there are still 800 Ivorian refugees who will have to decide whether to leave or stay because according to UNHCR Togo the Avepozo camp will have to close.