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Sierra Leone marks end of important chapter in returnee history

Sierra Leone marks end of important chapter in returnee history

The last of the Sierra Leonean refugees who had returned from Guinea and been resettled temporarily in host communities in Sierra Leone, have finally gone home this week. Meanwhile, sea repatriation from Liberia continues.
9 August 2002
Sierra Leonean returnees arriving in Freetown under UNHCR's sea repatriation operation from Liberia.

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, August 9 (UNHCR) - Sierra Leone is experiencing a wave of homecoming this week as its refugees in Liberia continue streaming home while their counterparts from Guinea make the final leg of their journey back to their home areas.

On Monday, a fourth boat arrived in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown, bringing a total of 1,211 Sierra Leonean refugees back from Liberia since sea repatriation started on July 20.

Within Sierra Leone, the UN refugee agency has just completed the final return home of Sierra Leonean returnees from Guinea who had been staying in temporary hosting communities inside Sierra Leone. The departure of these returnees for the final leg of their journey home started on June 4 and was completed this week, marking the end of an important chapter in the country's returnee history.

On Wednesday, a last group of 269 Sierra Leoneans left the Barri chiefdom town of Potoru, in Pujehun district. They were heading to their final destination in Kailahun and Kono districts, after some of them had stayed in the host community for more than a year.

UNHCR had helped more than 10,000 Sierra Leoneans settle in the Barri chiefdom between March 2001 and February 2002, when returnees from Guinea could not go back to Kono and Kailahun, which were still under rebel control.

The UN refugee agency helped returnees in host communities close to their homes with shelter material, schooling and medical care. The host communities will keep some of the facilities, including wells and latrines, after their departure.

Last year, the agency also moved more than 20,000 residents of the other host community project, in Lokomassama chiefdom, north of Freetown, back home. Today, virtually all returnees have been moved away from other temporary resettlement camps.

Since September 2000, UNHCR has helped more than 80,000 returnees settle back home, out of a total of 94,000 who are known to have repatriated from Guinea and Liberia.