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UN High Commissioner for Refugees visits Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia

UN High Commissioner for Refugees visits Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers
Kicking off his third visit to West Africa, the United Nations’ top refugee official, Ruud Lubbers, is in Sierra Leone today to review arrangements for completing the return of the remaining Sierra Leonean refugees in the region and preparing for the repatriation of Liberians to their country.

During his visit in Sierra Leone, Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to meet with President Tejan Kabbah and visit a camp for ex-combatants near the capital, Freetown, before leaving for Conakry, Guinea.

In Guinea, Mr. Lubbers is expected to visit Lainé camp, which was established for some 150,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, as well as one camp for Sierra Leoneans in Boreah.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said with 255,000 Sierra Leoneans having gone home from countries in the region since 2000, it will start to phase out its assistance and repatriation programmes in June.

Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to arrive in Liberia on Monday.

“We need to start now in preparing the ground for the return of some 300,000 Liberian refugees from neighbouring countries,” UNHCR said, adding that refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been returning on their own to home areas that have been devastated by conflict.

Forty-six UNHCR staff members were deployed across Liberia on Monday to reopen offices around the country. The agency noted that it had received only about $14 million of the $39.2 million appeal it had launched to aid the Liberian repatriation and reintegration programme.