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Liberia: IDP relocation begins

Briefing notes

Liberia: IDP relocation begins

19 December 2003

In Liberia, the relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) started this morning from the SKD stadium, 15 km east of Monrovia. We expect some 1,500 IDPs should be relocated today to six official IDP camps in the Montserrado area on the outskirts of the Liberian capital. UNHCR is providing 15 trucks to transport the IDPs to camps in the Montserrado area - Blamasee, Fendel, Mount Barclay, Seigbeh, Ricks and Unification. Security will be provided by UNMIL soldiers who will be present at the stadium. Several agencies are collaborating on this relocation exercise including OCHA, WFP, LRRRC (Liberian Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission) as well as several NGOs such as Merlin and ARC (American Refugee Council).

UNHCR will distribute non-food items to the newly relocated, including mats, blankets and kitchen sets. Ahead of the relocation exercise this week, UNHCR also started distributing building materials in the six camps to erect additional transit centres for the reception of the IDPs. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the American Refugee Council are also carrying out similar distribution. The IDPs will spend up to one week in the transit centres before being provided with construction materials to build their own shelters.

UNHCR and the other agencies registered the IDPs in the stadium earlier this week so we could determine the numbers and the profile of the IDPs to be relocated. UNMIL had to intervene during the registration process to ensure security in the stadium, as many non-IDPs residing in the area were trying to register as well.

A total of 7,000 IDPs should be relocated within a period of three days. We hope the exercise will be completed by Monday. The remaining 4,000 people camping in the stadium are believed to be local residents who will be assisted back to their homes, and possibly with some kind of material assistance as well.

The relocation will allow for the re-opening of the stadium in the near future for sports activities and events. This operation is the continuation of an inter-agency initiative that started in September to decongest the public buildings and schools occupied by IDPs in and around Monrovia. When fighting erupted in the capital last June, some 47,000 people converged in the stadium, many of them already displaced several times, from Lofa County and other war-torn areas.

Meanwhile, the disarmament and demobilisation of ex-combatants led by UNMIL, the UN Mission in Liberia, was suspended on Thursday for the holiday season. The campaign will resume on January 20. Despite a difficult start, a total of 8,545 ex-combatants have been disarmed in a little over ten days. This brings to 11,585 the total ex-combatants - from the government forces so far - who have registered in the campaign. That's about a quarter of the estimated 40,000 ex-combatants to be disarmed in Liberia.