UN official in Sierra Leone assesses impact of influx of Liberian refugees

UN official in Sierra Leone assesses impact of influx of Liberian refugees

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) today reported that its senior military official has toured several of the country’s border towns to assess the security impact of the current influx of Liberian refugees.

During his visits on Tuesday, UNAMSIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Daniel I. Opande spoke to Liberian refugees who said they had fled their homes when the Armed Forces of Liberia warned of impending attacks by rebels. The refugees also said Liberian troops were demanding money from them before allowing transit through a border area into Sierra Leone. The Force Commander later visited that area, known as the Dar-es-Salaam crossing point, where refugees corroborated the allegations of extortion and harassment by Liberian troops.

The Force Commander then crossed the Mano River Bridge to the Liberian side of the border at Bo Waterside for a meeting with the Liberian Minister of Defence. The UN official appealed to the Liberian Government to monitor its side of the border to prevent cross-border attacks against Sierra Leonean villages.

Lt. Gen. Opande also stressed that the UN was doing everything in its power, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, to police the Sierra Leonean side of the border, and requested the same from Liberian authorities, emphasizing that “peace in one of the Mano River Union countries without peace in the others is no peace at all.”

An average of slightly more than 100 refugees are crossing the border from Liberia into Sierra Leone daily, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).