UN will airlift 229 stranded Liberian refugees home tomorrow

23 April 2004
Liberian refugees

The United Nations will begin an airlift from Mali tomorrow of 229 stranded Liberian refugees, who had been trying to get themselves home from Ghana without the required travel permits, the UN refugee agency said today.

The group, mainly women and children, were stopped in Sikasso, a town at the border of Mali and Guinea, because they lacked authorization from the Guinean government to traverse its territory, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

After negotiations between UNHCR, Liberia and Mali, they were taken to Bamako, the Malian capital, on Thursday. They will be flown home in groups of 40 in a Boeing 727 aircraft provided by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

UNHCR said it has aided about 9,500 Liberians to return home since December, but about 6,000 of them have been unable to leave the area of Monrovia, the Liberian capital, because of insecurity in their districts of origin. If all goes well, however, UNHCR is planning to repatriate about 300,000 more later this year.

Meanwhile, former international soccer star George Weah, Liberian-born Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), continued his second trip to his homeland this year. He has been meeting demobilized former boy soldiers and thrilling them with his message of hope and hard work.


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