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Liberia: Fighting engulfs Samukai camp

Briefing notes

Liberia: Fighting engulfs Samukai camp

29 July 2003

Over the weekend, fighting in the Liberian capital spread to the Samukai area, engulfing a refugee camp that hosted more than 3,500 Sierra Leonean refugees. Earlier on, this camp was not affected by fighting but on Saturday refugees found themselves in rebel territory as the front line shifted to the area.

UNHCR staff report that large numbers of refugees fled the camp ahead of a rebel advance. Other reports allege that the rebels, who were expecting a counter-attack from government forces, advised refugees and local Liberians to leave the area. As a result, thousands more are now on the move in search of safety. We also have reports that some of our staff living in the area have fled their homes.

Some of the Sierra Leonean refugees now dispersed from Samukai camp had been registered for an emergency evacuation to Sierra Leone originally scheduled for July 20. But this latest round of fighting which broke out on July 18 dashed all plans for what would have been the fifth shipload of evacuees to Sierra Leone.

An earlier rebel offensive on Monrovia in early June sent thousands of refugees fleeing from the VOA camp outside the city. Many of them made their way to the centre of Monrovia and have since been encamped in public buildings alongside other displaced Liberians. Some 650 of them are currently in our UNHCR offices in the Mamba Point area which has been jammed with nearly 900 people, refugees and displaced Liberians, for more than a week now.