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Sierra Leone: IDPs estimated in tens of thousands

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: IDPs estimated in tens of thousands

19 May 2000

Some 650 refugees arrived in Forécariah, Guinea, on Wednesday. All of them came from the Port Loko area, north-east of Freetown, where they reported heavy fighting between the rebels of the RUF and government troops. This has raised the number of new arrivals in Guinea since the beginning of May to nearly 2,000. There are estimated to be tens of thousands more internally displaced people in Sierra Leone, but there are no signs of further large movements toward Guinea. The new arrivals have all been transferred to Kalako, the new refugee site prepared for them and received humanitarian assistance.

After the arrest of Foday Sankoh, the situation continues to remain calm in Freetown. UNHCR has decided to return a few more of its international staff to Freetown.

Many of the estimated 20,000 displaced persons who converged on the capital from surrounding rural areas have started to return home, according to UNHCR Freetown. UNHCR staff in Sierra Leone have been restricted in their movements. Travel by road to the interior of the country is still too dangerous, but UNAMSIL has now decided to establish regular helicopter flights to Bo, Kenema Moyamba and Pujehun for humanitarian workers.

Before the latest unrest began in early May, UNHCR had been preparing for the repatriation of nearly 300,000 Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea and 100,000 from Liberia. UNHCR had planned to repatriate 77,000 Sierra Leoneans from Guinea this year and another 150,000 next year - plans that are at least temporarily on hold.