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Sierra Leone: panic subsides, but refugees flee

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: panic subsides, but refugees flee

2 February 1999

A wave of panic which seized Freetown last week after the battle for the capital subsided and residents were able to move about freely has led more Sierra Leoneans to flee to neighbouring countries. On Sunday (31 January) UNHCR intervened with authorities in Conakry, Guinea, to permit a ship carrying 270 Sierra Leoneans to dock after information reached UNHCR that the passengers had run out of food and water off Guinea's coast the day before.

The Guinean-registered vessel reportedly left Freetown with a group of Sierra Leoneans who had been sheltering in the city's football stadium, along with an estimated 20,000 other displaced people. UNHCR was to screen the group today in Conakry in the hope of being able to transfer those refugees not in need of further medical attention, to camps in Forécariah.

Since the battle for Freetown began the first week of January, 2,132 Sierra Leonean refugees have been registered crossing into Guinea. Overall, there are 350,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea.