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Liberia: Hundreds still fleeing

Briefing notes

Liberia: Hundreds still fleeing

30 September 2003

Despite an overall improvement in the security situation in Liberia, hundreds of Liberian refugees continue to flee into Guinea, fearing fighting between government and rebel forces in central Liberia. This week, UNHCR has so far registered 500 Liberian arrivals at the Guinean border areas of Bignamou and another 760 at Baala. The refugees said they left their homes in Lofa county following threats of rebel attacks.

Rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy have been battling government forces in nearby Bong and Nimba counties, prompting an influx of more than 6,000 Liberians into Guinea over the past two weeks. Of this number, 3,700 arrivals have registered with UNHCR. Some of the Liberians were reportedly going back and forth across the border. The departures were fed by reports that rebels were harassing civilians, looting, and raping women. There were also unconfirmed reports of summary executions.

An inter-agency mission set out today from Monrovia to Gbarnga, the main town in Bong 180 km to the north-east, to look into the situation in the region. The mission was to go to Gbarnga last week but was held back because of fighting.

In eastern Liberia, Liberian refugees have been trickling back from Côte d'Ivoire since the situation improved following the deployment of a West African force of 3,500 and Charles Taylor's departure in August. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Liberians were reported to have returned to Grande Gedeh County from Côte d'Ivoire, which hosts 52,000 of the 315,000 Liberian refugees in West Africa.