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Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia

Briefing notes

Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia

12 October 1999

The transfer of Sierra Leonean refugees driven out of camps in Liberia by insecurity continued Monday, 11 October, with another 552 people transferred from the village of Tarvey to Sinje camp, while UNHCR has still not received government approval to evacuate the last group of vulnerable refugees from their original site in troubled northern Lofa County.

In the past three weeks, UNHCR has moved more than 3,000 Sierra Leoneans to Sinje, in Cape Mount County, from Tarvey. The refugees began moving to Tarvey in late August after armed attacks on villages around Kolahun in northern Lofa County forced aid workers to pull out of the area. Most made the 100 km journey on foot. There are still 9,000 Sierra Leoneans in Tarvey, although arrivals from Kolahun have stopped.

UNHCR is still waiting on permission from Liberian authorities to take out by road around 200 ill and elderly refugees and their caretakers who are stranded in Kolahun. The military have continued to ban humanitarian agencies from using area roads since the August incidents. The remaining group are still assisted by MSF and UNHCR by helicopter.

UNHCR is urgently working to get approval for the move. The situation in northern Liberia is still unstable. The army has commandeered more UNHCR vehicles last week from our office in Vahun.

There are 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, around 35,000 of whom were in northern Lofa County before the recent insecurity.