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Liberia: thousands being driven into exile

Briefing notes

Liberia: thousands being driven into exile

4 June 2002

Fighting and general instability in Liberia are driving thousands of people into exile. Last week alone, an estimated 3,400 Liberians fled to neighbouring Sierra Leone. UNHCR transferred 2,400 of them from the border, to camps further inland. The rest are still in the border zone. The overall camp population of Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone has now topped the 20,000 mark. Thousands have also fled into Guinea's Forest Region, bringing to 13,000 the number of Liberians who have fled to Guinea so far this year. Last week, UNHCR rushed aid supplies from Guinea's capital, Conakry, to the border zone town of Nzérékoré to accommodate the new arrivals.

In Sierra Leone, the number of formally registered new arrivals last week declined slightly compared to previous weeks. However, there are reports that refugees are increasingly entering Sierra Leone through unofficial crossing points along the Mano River. The Sierra Leone army reports that makeshift camps are being erected by refugees along the river.

While fewer refugees are arriving from Liberia's capital, Monrovia, the numbers of those fleeing from Lofa and Grand Cape Mount Counties have increased. We are also registering an increase in the number of local chiefs and government officials who have fled Liberia.

In Liberia, meanwhile, UNHCR is continuing the registration of Sierra Leonean refugees wishing to return home. With somewhat improved security conditions on the Monrovia-Sierra Leone highway, we are looking at a resumption of overland convoys. Sierra Leone refugees accommodated at the Sinje Camp, 80 km north-west of Monrovia, are keen to return home. Some have endured harassment by armed groups who entered the camp.