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Liberia: Concern for national staff and refugees

Briefing notes

Liberia: Concern for national staff and refugees

10 June 2003

As the situation in Liberia descended into chaos over the weekend, UNHCR evacuated its three remaining international staff yesterday with the help of French troops stationed on a ship off the coast. The vessel is due in Abidjan this evening or tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, we remain extremely concerned about our 33 national staff and their families living in Monrovia, as well as over the fate of some 15,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in the Monrovia area. Those refugees had been living in camps around the Liberian capital prior to the latest fighting.

Refugees who managed to cross the front line on the outskirts of Monrovia are believed to be among the tens of thousands of displaced Liberians who converged on the capital in search of safety as fighting raged on Friday and part of Saturday. On Saturday, the government advised the displaced to regroup at the National Stadium, where efforts would be made to provide them with security and assistance. As fighting died down, others were able to return to their homes on Saturday evening. But the fate of refugees still behind rebel lines is unknown.

The eastern part of Liberia remains a major concern for us. For the past few weeks, UNHCR has had no access in the region to Ivorian refugees and Liberian returnees who had fled the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire. Some 23,000 Liberians have also fled back into Côte d'Ivoire over the past two weeks.

UNHCR supports the ECOWAS-led negotiations in Akossombo, Ghana, and urges the government of Liberia as well as leaders of different factions to come to an agreement for a peaceful solution to the crisis. This is the only way to stop the suffering of the Liberian people.