UNHCR suspends return of Sierra Leone refugee convoys from Liberia

UNHCR suspends return of Sierra Leone refugee convoys from Liberia

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has temporarily suspended convoys bringing Sierra Leoneans home from Liberia after a sharp drop in the number of those going back, the agency said today.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has temporarily suspended convoys bringing Sierra Leoneans home from Liberia after a sharp drop in the number of those going back, the agency said today.

The decrease followed a surge in late December in the number of Sierra Leoneans going home from Sinje camp, about 80 kilometres north of the Liberian capital of Monrovia, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters in Geneva.

UNHCR began to organize convoys from the border to camps in the interior of Sierra Leone during the last 10 days of December after an estimated 1,500 Sierra Leoneans left the camp to escape harassment by marauding Liberian soldiers, according to Mr. Janowski. "Those leaving were also encouraged by prospects for peace in Sierra Leone," he said.

However, during the first week of January, the number of people leaving Sinje camp fell sharply after unruly Liberian soldiers were removed from the camp's vicinity and refugees no longer felt threatened by fighting in the southern part of Liberia, the spokesman said.