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Situation in Sierra Leone

Briefing notes

Situation in Sierra Leone

5 January 1999

UNHCR is extremely concerned about the upsurge in fighting in Sierra Leone which has caused new displacement within the country, raising the spectre of another refugee exodus from Sierra Leone.

The number of displaced persons inside the country is roughly estimated at 350,000 people. Many are located in the area of Kenema (western part of the country) and the capital Freetown is overpopulated.

Over the past few days, over one hundred refugees have fled into neighbouring Guinea but we received reports of 5,800 more people being displaced in the border area of Kambia and possibly intending to cross into Guinea if fighting between rebels and the West African Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) continues. UNHCR has made preparations to receive new arrivals on the Guinean side of the border.

Some 210,000 people fled Sierra Leone to Guinea last year alone. Hundreds arrived mutilated by the rebel forces which systematically terrorised the rural population. There are a total of 350,000 Sierra Leone refugees in Guinea and another 90,000 in Liberia.