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Sierra Leone: rebels preventing flight to Liberia

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: rebels preventing flight to Liberia

9 February 1999

Four Sierra Leonean refugees who crossed into northern Liberia in recent days told UNHCR that hundreds of civilians are being prevented from fleeing eastern Sierra Leone by Revolutionary United Front rebels. The refugees say that hundreds of people who want to leave the rebel-controlled area in Kailahun district, about 20 km from the Liberian border town of Vahun, are kept against their will by fighters.

Around 40,000 Sierra Leoneans crossed into Vahun last year as West African peacekeepers battled rebel forces. UNHCR has since moved 25,000 farther from the remote border area.

More than 400 Liberian refugees have now reached UNHCR staff in Freetown and have asked to be repatriated. UNHCR is looking for means to return them as soon as the security situation in Freetown allows. Before the recent round of fighting UNHCR was caring for 8,000 Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone, including 5,000 in Waterloo, near the capital.