Fighting, instability driving thousands of Liberians into exile - UN refugee agency

Fighting, instability driving thousands of Liberians into exile - UN refugee agency

Thousands of Liberians have been driven into exile in recent weeks by fighting and general instability, with more than 20,000 now encamped in neighbouring Sierra Leone, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

UNHCR has transferred 2,400 of an estimated 3,400 Liberians who last week fled to the Sierra Leone border to camps further inland, a spokesman for the agency said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Although the number of formally registered new arrivals in Sierra Leone declined last week, there were reports that refugees are increasingly entering the country through unofficial crossing points along the Mano River, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said.

Meanwhile, thousands more have also fled into Guinea's Forest Region, bringing to 13,000 the number of Liberians who have fled to that country so far this year, according to Mr. Janowski. Last week, UNHCR rushed aid supplies from Guinea's capital, Conakry, to the border zone town of Nzerekore to accommodate the new arrivals.

In Liberia, UNHCR has been continuing to register Sierra Leonean refugees wishing to return home, Mr. Janowski said, particularly those at the Sinje Camp, some of whom have endured harassment by armed groups who entered the camp.

With somewhat improved security conditions on the Monrovia-Sierra Leone highway, the UN agency was looking to resume overland convoys, he said.