Nigeria: second repatriation airlift for Sierra Leoneans

Briefing Notes, 3 September 2002

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 September 2002, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The second repatriation airlift for Sierra Leoneans returning home from Nigeria is expected to take place tomorrow (Wednesday), with 63 refugees on board.

As with the first movement last week, the first leg of the return journey is scheduled to start today when about 50 refugees travel by bus to Lagos from Oru camp, a two-hour drive. They will stay overnight at the Hajj camp used by pilgrims departing to Mecca near Lagos airport. They will undergo customs formalities at the camp and be joined by about 15 urban refugees who had been residing in Lagos itself and who have also asked for UNHCR help to go back home. The second leg of the returnees' journey, the airlift itself, is scheduled on a commercial flight Wednesday morning.

As with last week's flight, the majority of the Sierra Leonean returnees originate from Freetown. This flight will also include some refugees from Port Loko district, north of Freetown, and Tonkolili district, in central Sierra Leone.

In all, Nigeria hosts about 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, of whom only 270 have so far requested to go home. With last week's departure, this will bring to 132 the number repatriated so far. Three subsequent flights will return people originating from the east and interior of Sierra Leone, including Bo and Kenema, Makeni and Koidu.

Upon arrival at Lungi international airport near Freetown, the returnees will be welcomed by UNHCR staff and be briefed on reception procedures. Each returnee family will get a reintegration coupon for two months of entitlements. The returnee package includes a food ration provided by WFP consisting of 18 kg of cereals, 1.5 litres of oil and 7.5 kg of pulses. Three blankets and three sleeping mats as well as soap, a jerry can, one kitchen set, a plastic sheet and a lantern are also included in the reintegration kit.

Some 170,000 Sierra Leoneans have returned home from throughout West Africa since Sept. 2000.