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Liberia: second repatriation convoy preparations

Briefing notes

Liberia: second repatriation convoy preparations

15 February 2002

UNHCR is preparing to move either late this afternoon or early tomorrow a second group of Sierra Leonean refugees joining UNHCR's first organised repatriation from Liberia into Sierra Leone. Around 430 Sierra Leonean refugees are expected to join the second convoy from the Sinje camps in Liberia.

On Thursday, the first group of 243 Sierra Leonean refugees repatriated to their country by UNHCR arrived at the Blama way station outside Kanema in north-eastern Sierra Leone after an overnight stop at the border town of Jendema. They will stay there for several days before proceeding to their home villages. After a decade-long civil war, the situation in Sierra Leone has improved since last month with the resumption of demobilisation of combatants.

At Blama, the returnees will receive a two-month supply of food, blankets, kitchen sets and agricultural tools before going back to their home villages. The 11 trucks that transported them returned to Liberia today and if all goes well, the second group of refugees will leave in the afternoon or early tomorrow. Last week, some 3,000 Liberians and 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia spontaneously arrived in Jendema over three days, but the number of arrivals has gone down to about a hundred per day. In Liberia itself, the situation was tense. Gunfire was heard in the town of Tubmanburg on Thursday, but only a trickle of Liberians was reported to have gone into Sinje camps, about 30 km away. Sinje is home to around 15,000 of the estimated 33,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia.