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Liberia: first Sierra Leonean returnees from camps around Monrovia

Briefing notes

Liberia: first Sierra Leonean returnees from camps around Monrovia

25 February 2002

The first convoy of some 400 Sierra Leonean returnees from camps around Monrovia, Liberia, is expected to arrive today in Jendema, Sierra Leone. The movements from Monrovia are in addition to regular return convoys from Sinje camps which have been taking place since 12 February. So far, six convoys from Sinje have brought back more than 1,700 refugees. Another convoy from Sinje is expected to depart today (Tuesday) with some 400 people. Convoys from Monrovia will continue at a rate of three trips per week. Smaller numbers of Sierra Leonean returnees coming back on their own also continue to arrive in Jendema, with around 100 spontaneous returnees per day over the past few days.

Meanwhile, Liberian refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive in large numbers in Sierra Leone. More than 9,500 Liberians have arrived since February 8, with 300 to 500 arriving daily over the past few days. Most are originally from Lofa County in Liberia and have been displaced within Liberia for some time already before the most recent fighting has forced them to cross the border into Sierra Leone.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), we will focus our limited trucking capacity on moving Liberian refugees in Jendema to refugee camps further from the border. We hope to relocate around 800 Liberian refugees on Wednesday. UNHCR's trucking capacity has been stretched to the limit moving both refugees and returnees from the border, and UNAMSIL has agreed to support the transport. Some 50 UNAMSIL trucks are now in use and another 25 are expected soon.

UNHCR is also increasing its transit facilities in Sierra Leone to deal with the large-scale movements. In addition to existing way stations at Gbaiama, Jui and Blama, sites at Dauda and Gondama are now in use, and we are building a new facility in Zimmi which should be operational in the next couple of days. Additional sites at Mape and Port Loko are also being prepared.

The first team of seven UNHCR emergency staff arrived Monday in Sierra Leone and are heading out to the border area and transit sites to assist the ongoing operation and beef up our field presence. More emergency staff are expected to arrive soon both in Sierra Leone and Liberia.