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Refugee movements in Liberia

Briefing notes

Refugee movements in Liberia

31 August 1999

More than 5,000 Sierra Leonean refugees have left their camps in northern Liberia's Lofa County after insecurity there three weeks ago prompted aid agencies in three towns to evacuate, leaving behind vehicles and warehouses which were subsequently looted.

A UNHCR mission on Friday, 27 August, counted over 5,000 refugees in the town of Targbe, in Lower Lofa County, about 200 km from Monrovia. The Sierra Leoneans are in decent physical condition, but they expressed concern about continuing tension and humanitarian access to the zone.

UNHCR will transfer the group in Targbe to Sinje, an existing Sierra Leonean camp in Cape Mount County, as soon as the Liberian authorities approve the move. Refugees in Targbe told staff that hundreds more followed them out of the camps. Other missions will be carried out to canvas the forested area and encourage Sierra Leoneans to move to Sinje.

On Sunday, staff from several agencies and NGOs travelled by helicopter to assess the security situation in the towns of Vahun and Kolahun, the site of fighting earlier this month between government forces and 'dissidents'. They reported tension in the two towns, with a heavy presence of troops. Another group is scheduled to go tomorrow, Wednesday, to examine the immediate humanitarian needs in the area.

There are 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, around 35,000 of these in Lofa County.