Making way for more refugees

News Stories, 10 August 2001

GENEVA, Aug. 10 (UNHCR) In anticipation of more new arrivals, an estimated 8,000 returning refugees in three transit centres in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown have been asked to move from the premises to resettlement sites, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The returnees came home in November of last year following fighting in refugee camps in neighbouring Guinea where they were living. The majority are from the Kono tribe and they are reluctant to move from the Jui, Waterloo and Lumpa transit centres because their home territory in Sierra Leone is still considered unsafe.

UNHCR has been organizing convoys to resettlement sites in the east and south of the country and a new site at Taiama will open next week so the returnees can be as close to their homes as possible.

The number of refugees returning by ship from the Guinea capital of Conakry to Freetown has dropped in the past several months after the security situation in Guinea improved, but the refugee agency will shortly start facilitating the return of more refugees who decide to go home, even though the situation in parts of the country remains difficult. Of the more than 56,000 Sierra Leoneans who have gone back in the last year, only 4,300 have been able to go back to their homes. The rest live in resettlement sites.