Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Sierra Leone: organised returns increase ahead of deadline

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: organised returns increase ahead of deadline

1 June 2004

The organised return of refugees to Sierra Leone after a decade of civil war is picking up pace before the repatriation programme comes to an end on 30 June.

Last Friday, the largest convoy yet of 718 refugees arrived from Liberia in Gendema, on their way to the UNHCR way station in Zimmi. Today a further convoy of 14 trucks carrying 353 people is expected to arrive.

This year alone, UNHCR has helped over 3,700 refugees return to Sierra Leone. Since repatriation started in 2001, UNHCR has helped over 120,000 refugees return home, mostly from Liberia and Guinea. Some of the refugees had been in exile for over 10 years.

After arrival at the Zimmi way station, each returnee is given a jerry can, blanket, sleeping mat, and a bar of soap. They are also vaccinated against yellow fever as the vaccine is not available in Liberia. The vaccine requires a 7 day quarantine which means that all of the returnees must wait at the way station for 7 days before proceeding to their final destination.

During their seven-day stay, they receive three generous meals per day of pea soup and bulgur provided by WFP [World Food Programme]. After 7 days, each person above age 18 receive a plastic sheet, kitchen set, kerosene lantern, 25 kg of bulgur, 6.25 kg of lentils, 1.83 kg of vegetable oil and a bag to carry all of their new possessions.

Those refugees who choose to remain in Liberia can do so under the West African agreement called ECOWAS - the Economic Community of West African States.