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Sierra Leone: first repatriation convoy to use new land routes from Guinea

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: first repatriation convoy to use new land routes from Guinea

22 March 2002

The first refugee repatriation convoy to use new land routes from Guinea to Sierra Leone is expected to arrive in Sierra Leone on Saturday with 500 returnees. The Sierra Leonean refugees - 151 families - left Boreah camp in the Kissidougou area of Guinea on Thursday morning and are bound for Port Loko, 40 miles north of Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital.

This is the first time UNHCR has done returns from Guinea by land and follows an agreement with Guinean authorities to open four border crossings for repatriation. We now plan to organize twice-weekly convoys for up to 1,000 refugees. Another 500 per week continue to return by sea in a programme that has been running since Dec. 2000.

Some 15,000 refugees in Guinean camps have registered for repatriation.

From Boreah, the first 12-truck convoy made a stopover in the Guinean town of Mamou, about 320 km north-west of Kissidougou, where they spent the night. Today, they go on to the Mambya transit centre, about 100 km north of the Guinean capital of Conakry. Tomorrow, they will make the last leg to Port Loko, a journey which should take half a day.

At the border with Sierra Leone, the convoy will be met by government and UNHCR staff from Kambia and Freetown. In Port Loko, about two hours from the border, the refugees will overnight in a former camp for internally displaced persons. They will undergo a medical and security screening.

On Sunday, other convoys will take them to their final destinations in Sierra Leone, primarily in Kailahun and Kono in the east of the country. They will receive a reintegration package that includes a two-month food ration, utensils and agricultural tools, plastic sheeting and building material.

Repatriation to Sierra Leone from neighbouring Liberia is also continuing. To date, a total of 8,900 refugees have been brought back from Liberian camps around the capital Monrovia.