Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Liberian exodus continues amid fighting

Liberian exodus continues amid fighting

Sierra Leone now hosts more than 20,000 Liberian refugees in camps while 13,000 have arrived in Guinea's camps since the beginning of this year.
4 June 2002

MONROVIA, Liberia, June 4 (UNHCR) - As fighting persists in Liberia, the exodus to neighbouring countries has been continuing, with 3,400 Liberian refugees arriving in Sierra Leone's camps over the last week and 13,000 arriving in Guinea's camps since the beginning of the year.

Sierra Leone now hosts more than 20,000 Liberian refugees in camps. The country received the largest number of Liberian refugees in the past week, with some 2,400 new arrivals that UNHCR subsequently transferred from the border region of Zimmi to camps in Bo district. According to UNHCR staff, more than 1,000 are still waiting in Zimmi for transport.

Liberians are entering Sierra Leone through the Gba, Gendema and Dar-es-Salaam border crossings in south-eastern Sierra Leone. The number of registered refugees has declined slightly from previous weeks. However, there are reports that Liberians are increasingly entering Sierra Leone through unofficial crossing points along the Mano River. The Sierra Leonean army has reported seeing makeshift camps being erected by refugees along the river.

In Gendema, arrivals from the Liberian capital of Monrovia are decreasing, while refugees from Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties are increasing. UNHCR is also registering a rising number of local chiefs and government officials. From Gba, heavy shooting and mortar fire in nearby Bombala, across the border in Liberia, were heard last week.

In Liberia, UNHCR has resumed registration of Sierra Leonean refugees who wish to return home. In view of improved security conditions on the Monrovia-Sierra Leone highway, the refugee agency may be able to restart repatriation convoys by land following a two-week break for the Sierra Leone elections and recent fighting along that road, which had made it temporarily impassable.

The refugees in Sinje camps will have priority in this repatriation operation, since they have been the most exposed to the recent trouble and are being harassed by armed government militia entering the camps in search of dissidents. UNHCR is exploring the possibility of initially running convoys from Bo Waterside, at the Sierra Leonean border, to Sinje and back, since the Sinje-Monrovia road is still not safe. Repatriation by sea is also still an option.

UNHCR staff in Monrovia held a meeting with Sinje refugee camp leaders in the capital last week. The refugee leaders reported new arrivals to Sinje camp - some 2,600 new displaced Liberians and 740 Sierra Leonean refugees who had been living unassisted in the Bong and Lofa counties. Sinje already hosts some 8,000 displaced Liberians and 11,000 refugees.

Other refugee camps close to Monrovia are also hosting thousands of internally displaced Liberians. Zuannah camp, for instance, now hosts 11,000 displaced Liberians, in addition to Sierra Leonean refugees.

Meanwhile, in Guinea, Liberians have also been fleeing into the forest region of Macenta, Guéckédou and Nzérékoré. Guinea now counts 13,000 new arrivals, mainly from Lofa and Bong counties in Liberia, since the beginning of this year.

Last week, UNHCR sent supplies - plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, mats, blankets, soap and jerry cans - from the Guinean capital of Conakry and Dabola to Nzérékoré for distribution to the new arrivals. Although dozens of new tents have been erected at Nonah transit centre for 3,350 new arrivals, as well as in the two existing camps, the refugee agency has urgently ordered more plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and water pumps.

The UNHCR office in Nzérékoré has increased its monitoring patrols along the 550-km-long border with Liberia, particularly in the prefectures of Yomou (facing Bong county) and Macenta / Guéckédou (facing Lofa county). A new influx has been reported in the Yomou Prefecture since Saturday, following fresh fighting across the border. Last week 975 refugees were transferred further inland from Yomou to Nonah transit centre, and another 377 from the Tekoulo (Guéckédou) area to Kouankan camp, which already hosts some 22,000 refugees.

UNHCR has set up registration teams in the affected areas and in villages with large concentrations of refugees. Mobile ambulances of Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland have been combing the major collecting points while the World Food Programme is distributing emergency food on the spot.

The bulk of Liberian refugees are hosted in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. The latter has received some 10,000 Liberian refugees this year alone. There are also a few thousands of them in Ghana and Nigeria.