Liberia: IDPs moved from Monrovia
UNHCR and other UN agencies and NGO partners yesterday carried out what we hope will be one of the last relocations in the Monrovia area, taking 690 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from three irregular shelters in the Montserrado area of Monrovia to five formal IDP camps near the capital. From some 2,000 people in the centres, 879 had registered for the relocation yesterday. On the date of departure, however, only 690 actually showed up and were taken to the IDP camps.
We hope this will be one of the last large movements in an IDP relocation operation mounted by UN agencies last September to help decongest the city of Monrovia. However, some displaced people continue to seek shelter in public buildings in the capital, leading to new requests for assistance. The relocation operation has been under way since September to help IDPs who had fled to safety in Monrovia, temporarily occupying schools and other essential public facilities. They are being taken to official IDP centres, where they are able to receive regular assistance.
Many of the occupants at these irregular shelters were not genuine IDPs but residents of the area who pretended to be displaced to take advantage of benefits offered by humanitarian agencies. During the latest relocation exercise, it was once again observed that many of them spontaneously left the centres for their homes in nearby communities, while others from more distant areas hired commercial vehicles to leave the centres.
UNHCR provided 20 trucks and two ambulances to transport the IDPs to Ricks, Siegbeh, Perry Town, Blamasee and Unification IDP camps. UNHCR security staff and UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia] soldiers were present to ensure security during the transfer of the IDPs. It is customary that UNHCR distributes non-food items to the newly relocated IDPs, including mats, blankets and kitchen sets. Prior to the relocation exercise, massive preparation work included shelter construction, transfer of IDPs recently relocated and still occupying the much-needed transit centres, to regular shelters within the IDP camps, and upgrade of facilities like water and sanitation, in order to enhance the camps' absorption capacity.
Meanwhile, a group of Sierra Leonean refugees was repatriated by air to Freetown, Sierra Leone, yesterday (Thursday). A group of 37 Sierra Leonean refugees boarded a commercial flight to Freetown, escorted and assisted by UNHCR and medical staff at both ends. We hope that repatriation by land will resume as soon UN peacekeepers deploy in Bomi County and begin patrols in the Monrovia / Bo-Waterside area, through which the road used for return convoys passes. In 2003, UNHCR Liberia repatriated over 4,083 Sierra Leonean refugees. The operation will continue until June 2004. UNHCR is continuing information campaigns to promote returns to Sierra Leone among the estimated 13,000 Sierra Leoneans remaining in camps in Liberia.