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Concern for situation in Liberia

Briefing notes

Concern for situation in Liberia

18 July 2003

UNHCR is very concerned about the latest reports of fighting on the outskirts of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Yesterday afternoon, our staff in Monrovia said renewed fighting had been reported in Sastown, some 25 km from the capital. This caused panic and provoked more frightened people to flee the conflict area towards the centre of Monrovia, which already has large numbers of displaced people. They include thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees who had been living in four Monrovia - area camps before fighting broke out in early June.

We are very worried that if the situation deteriorates further, it will affect the emergency evacuation of Sierra Leonean refugees which we started on July 4. Yesterday, the MV Overbeck - the ship chartered by UNHCR to evacuate stranded Sierra Leonean refugees from Monrovia - made its fourth voyage and evacuated an additional 299 Sierra Leonean refugees from Monrovia to Freetown, Sierra Leone. To date, we have assisted nearly 1,250 Sierra Leoneans.

Our national staff in Monrovia continue to register refugees who wish to return. At the same time, limited assistance, particularly food, is being provided to refugees still in some of the camps. Last week, we completed food distribution to some 3,500 refugees in Samukai camp. Food distribution to thousands of refugees in Banjor camp was started this week. More than half the population of 11,000 - which includes refugees from VOA and Zuannah camps - has received food. As our partners are unable to stockpile food or any other items in the camps, the food distribution is being carried out in phases.

Our staff are also making efforts to address the issue of harassment raised by refugees in the camps. Yesterday, our national staff met with government officials and agreed on the re - deployment of monitors in the camps. Before the fighting in June, UNHCR and government authorities had a regular presence in the camps to monitor the well - being of refugees. Depending on the situation, our national staff will also make daily visits to the camps.