Peace workshop for urban refugees

A workshop aimed at equipping refugees with skills in peace-building and possible conflict prevention opened on Monday in Cote d'Ivoire's commercial capital, Abidjan.

The some 30 participants included Central Africans, Congolese (DRC), Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Togolese. They came from camps in Abidjan, where refugees have been accomodated following the destruction of shanty towns on the order of the authorities.

"The workshop is to help enhance peace and particularly help them know how to live together despite their different nationalities so as to minimise and prevent possible conflict amongst them," a facilitator told IRIN. It covers communication skills, collaboration, listening and understanding and in general, empathy.

The aim of the workshop "is to give them an opportunity to know each other and learn these fundamental interpersonal skills which we hope they will share with the rest in the camps," the facilitator added. "No conflict has taken place yet, it is only a preventive measure."

The workshop was organised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Service d'Aide et d'Assistance aux Refugies et Apatrides (SAARA) a governmental organisation that deals with refugee issues.

The five-day workshop is meant for young adults aged 18 to 24. A similar one is to be held next week for older refugees from the Abidjan area. A third workshop is scheduled to be held in western Cote d'Ivoire, where most of the refugees are concentrated.

There are over 2,500 refugees in the Abidjan area, according to UNHCR, which is housing 1,050 displaced refugees in seven centres around Abidjan.

On Friday, UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski said his agency was "extremely concerned about security incidents in and around makeshift sites sheltering refugees in Abidjan". He said that "on several occasions, security forces entered the sites and carried out random identity checks". He added that "the ID checks made the refugees nervous and prompted them to ask UNHCR for more secure accommodation".

Janowski said UNHCR had repeatedly asked the Ivorian government to provide an alternative site for the displaced refugees but had received no response.