Month-long Liberian boat-people saga ends in Nigeria

News Stories, 27 June 2001

LAGOS, 27 June 2001 A Swedish-registered ship docked at the Nigerian port of Lagos on Tuesday nearly a month after it wandered the West African seas and three countries refused asylum to its 156 mostly Liberian passengers.

The passengers, who also include Ghanians and Sierra Leoneans, disembarked from the vessel looking tired and dazed from their 26-day ordeal at sea, but were otherwise in generally good health. Some were in tears.

Aid workers provided medical treatment to three malaria-stricken women. The rest were given relief aid and transported to the Oru refugee camp, 120 km west of Lagos. There, UNHCR staff will look into their claims for asylum.

The Swedish ship captain told reporters in Lagos that the voyage started in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on June 1. It was to head for Ghana, but was refused entry there. Benin and Togo also did not allow the vessel to dock.

On UNHCR's pleas, Nigeria allowed the passengers 40 men, 40 women and 76 children to disembark on humanitarian grounds.

Most of the passengers were from Lofa County and Gbanga in northern Liberia, where clashes have been reported between the Charles Taylor government and rebel forces.

More than 200,000 Liberians have fled civil conflict in Liberia over the past decade, including several thousand who have found refuge in Nigeria.