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Sierra Leone: spontaneous returns from Guinea continue

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: spontaneous returns from Guinea continue

20 March 2001

Sierra Leonean refugees continue to spontaneously return to eastern Sierra Leone from the isolated Parrot's Beak region of Guinea. Over the weekend, an estimated 900 refugees returned on foot to Daru, north-east of the town of Kenema, according to Sierra Leonean authorities. More returnees are believed to be in surrounding villages. In the eastern town of Kenema, where UNHCR has a field office, the number of returnees being registered has risen to more than 300 a day. UNAMSIL forces in Daru are transporting the returnees south to Kenema for registration by UNHCR. The returnees are then being taken to UNHCR temporary settlement sites in Jembe and Gerihun in Bo district. Bo is in the southern part of Sierra Leone.

UNHCR is establishing a transit station in Kenema, from where food and medical assistance will be given to returnees being transferred from Daru to resettlement sites further south. On Wednesday, UNHCR will start transferring returnees to new temporary sites in communities around Potoru in Moyamba district, south-east of Freetown. The new sites will relieve the pressure on Jembe and Gerihun temporary settlement sites.

Meanwhile, UNHCR in Kissidougou, Guinea,reports that an NGO weekend mission inside the unstable Parrot's Beak found that large areas in the central parts of the region appeared deserted, including camps and villages. The weekend mission also confirmed the burning of at least six camps around Nongoa and the looting of 187 tons of WFP food. Nongoa, inside the Parrot's Beak region, was attacked by rebels on March 9. The attack scattered an estimated 10,000 refugees from Nongoa. Over a one-week period, nearly 10,000 refugees from the Nongoa area have arrived in the towns of Mongo, Dandou and Katkama, to the north of Nongoa.

Today, UNHCR was scheduled to send a security team to the Parrot's Beak to assess the security situation in the aftermath of the March 9 attack on Nongoa. The mission will also advise on the possible resumption of aid convoys into the beleaguered region.