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Liberia: IDP registration to begin

Briefing notes

Liberia: IDP registration to begin

16 December 2003

UNHCR teams in Liberia will today start the registration of some 7,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in SKD Stadium, 15 km east of Monrovia. The registration, which will be carried out in collaboration with OCHA, WFP, LRRRC (Liberian Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission) and several NGOs, will result in the relocation of these IDPs to official camps for the displaced in the Montserrado area on the outskirts of the Liberian capital.

An information campaign was carried out to inform the IDPs in advance of their relocation to the camps. During the registration, heads of family will be able to indicate their names and preferences for one camp or another, depending on space availability.

The relocation itself should be completed in two days, hopefully later this week. Fifteen UNHCR trucks will be used to transport the IDPs to six camps: Mount Barclay, Seigbeh, Fendel, Unification, Ricks and Blamasee. We will also provide non-food items such as mats, blankets and kitchen sets. IDPs will spend a week in a UNHCR transit centre within the camps before being provided with construction materials in order to build their own houses or huts.

The relocation allows for a re-opening of the stadium in the near future for sport activities, as requested by Liberian authorities. The operation is the continuation of a programme started in September to decongest the public buildings and other facilities occupied by IDPs in and around Monrovia. After fighting in Monrovia in June, some 47,000 people ended up in SKD Stadium, many of them already displaced from previous wars in Liberia. Nearly a third of the IDPs in SKD Stadium are originally from strife-torn Lofa County, in the north of Liberia. There were also some refugees from Sierra Leone who had fled camps in Liberia. There are presently an estimated 11,000 people remaining in SKD Stadium, including about 7,000 IDPs. The rest are believed to be vulnerable residents of the area.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has had to reschedule several missions to Harper, Zwedru and Saclepea, in the east of the country, due to rampant insecurity that plagued the kick-off of the disarmament and demobilisation of ex-combatants in Liberia, on 7 December. Riots and looting erupted country-wide last week after disgruntled ex-combatants demanded that the stipend, which they were originally due to receive after a three-week demobilisation training, be paid to them immediately upon surrendering their weapons. UNMIL - the UN Mission in Liberia - and UN agencies finally agreed last week to give a $75 cash grant in the camp to each fighter turning in a weapon, ending several days of unrest which left at least 12 people dead in the capital.

Because of the high level of insecurity, humanitarian agencies were not able to work in the cantonment camp at camp Schieffelin, some 56 km east of Monrovia, or to provide services to ex-combatants in the camp. However as of yesterday, 7,754 weapons had been collected by UNMIL and more than 9,000 ex-combatants from the government forces had registered.

The disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants in Liberia will be suspended tomorrow and will resume after the holiday season on January 20, 2004. According to UNMIL, this time will be used to increase the capacity and improve living conditions in camp Schieffelin.

UNMIL and UN agencies will also prepare for the opening of new sites for ex-combatants of the LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) and MODEL (Movement for democracy in Liberia) rebel forces. An estimated 40,000 rebels and government soldiers are potentially to be disarmed and reintegrated into civilian life after 14 year of constant wars in the country.

UNHCR has supplied non-food items to the disarmament camp of Schieffelin - including plastic mats and blankets, jerry cans, soap, kitchen sets, cooking pots and lanterns. We also plan to provide advice on camp management once the disarmament and demobilization operations resume in January.