Thousands fleeing from Liberia to Sierra Leone, UNHCR reports

Thousands fleeing from Liberia to Sierra Leone, UNHCR reports

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Thousands of panicked refugees have crossed from Liberia into neighbouring Sierra Leone after fighting broke out last week between Liberian rebels and government forces, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that by Monday the agency had registered the arrival of more than 3,000 Liberian nationals and about 2,000 Sierra Leoneans in the border town of Jendema, Sierra Leone. Most of the Sierra Leoneans, who have been living in Liberia as refuges, came from the Sinje camp, located around 20 kilometres from the scenes of the latest fighting. Spokesman Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva that UNHCR staff had registered an additional 1,000 people today and were expecting the arrival of more refugees.

UNHCR has deployed trucks to relocate the Liberian refugees to the Jimmi Bargbo camp situated a further 350 kilometres into Sierra Leone, he said. The returning Sierra Leone nationals, who mostly come from the north-east of the country, will be transported to their home areas.

UNHCR was also sending trucks to two camps located outside Monrovia, the Liberian capital. Around 6,500 Sierra Leonean refugees, who had volunteered to return home before the recent outbreak of violence, were waiting to be transported back to their country.

“We believe that the current instability in Liberia may push more Sierra Leoneans to sign up for the trip,” Mr. Redmond said.

In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today it was preparing food distribution to persons displaced by the renewed fighting in Liberia.