Swiss upset about their embassy in Abidjan

Thousands of Europeans have fled from the unrest in Ivory Coast Keystone

A number of Swiss repatriated from crisis-torn Ivory Coast have criticised the way the Swiss embassy in Abidjan has handled the situation.

This content was published on November 13, 2004 minutes

The foreign ministry in Bern admits there have been communication problems, but says its citizens have been kept informed about the possibilities of leaving the country.

“The embassy made no effort to help me,” complained Corinne Moix from canton Valais, who returned to Switzerland this week with her 17-month-old son, after spending three years in the country.

Moix was particularly upset that the Swiss embassy in Abidjan had not contacted her since the beginning of the crisis.

“We Swiss were not kept sufficiently informed. The embassy could have contacted us to ask what we wanted to do and give us advice," she said.

Into care

Last Saturday, Moix's house was plundered. She and her son were taken into care by French forces.

Moix later contacted the Swiss ambassador, Johannes Kunz, to ask him about the possibility of returning to Switzerland.

Kunz is said to have told her that if she wanted, she could be evacuated by the French.

“I asked him how I was going to return to Switzerland from Paris. He told me to sort that out myself. His replies were disappointing,” she said.

Her case is not isolated. French-language Swiss television on Friday showed the French wife of a Swiss in Ivory Coast who also questioned the way the embassy was dealing with its citizens.

Exceptional circumstances

“These circumstances are exceptional. Working conditions have been particularly difficult,” said Ivo Sieber, a spokesman at the Swiss foreign ministry.

He added that the embassy had informed all Swiss about the possibilities of leaving Ivory Coast, in cooperation with France.

“We leave the decision up to each individual,” he said.

At present, 31 Swiss have left Ivory Coast and 17 others have expressed a wish to leave. A total of 180 Swiss remain in the country.

On Sunday, Sieber said the foreign ministry would send one of its inspectors to Abidjan to help embassy staff and make sure that no further problems arose.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

267 Swiss were registered with the Swiss embassy in Abidjan when violence erupted on November 4.
The Swiss foreign ministry estimated their number to be a little more than 200 on November 8.
Since then, 31 Swiss have been evacuated from Ivory Coast.
17 others have expressed a wish to leave the country.
180 have decided to stay there.

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In brief

On November 4, Ivory Coast government war planes bombarded the rebel-held north, breaking a year-long ceasefire.

The two sides are separated by a buffer zone set up by French troops and United Nations peacekeeping forces.

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