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Liberia: situation reported to have calmed

Briefing notes

Liberia: situation reported to have calmed

1 February 2002

The situation is Liberia is reported to have calmed down following last

weekend's fighting near Sawmill, Bomi County, some 100 km north of the capital Monrovia. The fighting sent tens of thousands of people fleeing southwards toward the capital. The displaced had gathered at Klay Junction, about 35 km north of Monrovia. UNHCR staff were able to travel through Klay Junction to Sinje, a camp for Sierra Leonean refugees, every day this week without problem. The camp is located in Grand Cape Mount County, which borders Bomi County.

A wave of panic initially swept through the camp when reports of the nearby fighting reached Sinje, prompting many people to prepare to return to Sierra Leone. By Tuesday, however, there was a general relaxation of the atmosphere after people were reassured that the fighting would not reach the camp. No mass departures were recorded. Sinje camp has a population of 17,000.

The number of displaced persons at Klay Junction fell over the past two days as fighting was reported to have moved north again towards Bopolu (Gbarpolu County). Aid agencies were able to access people at Klay Junction, but have been advised by the government not to travel beyond that point.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is speeding up preparations for the repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia back to their country. A pre-registration campaign (an initial survey to record the number of candidates for return) in Liberia's six camps ended yesterday with a total of 6,198 pre-registered. More than half of them originated from the devastated Kailahun district.