UN refugee agency's deadline nears for repatriating Sierra Leoneans

UN refugee agency's deadline nears for repatriating Sierra Leoneans

With the 30 June deadline fast approaching for the United Nations refugee agency to wind up its repatriation of Sierra Leoneans, the agency has urged the 10,000 refugees in neighbouring Liberia to take the assistance available, including twice-weekly convoys, for their return and reintegration.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has repatriated more than 250,000 Sierra Leoneans in the last four years, especially since the civil conflict in their country ended and elections were held in April 2002.

One exile who joined the convoy last Friday was Mohammed Sosu, who fled Sierra Leone to avoid witnessing "more rapes and violent crimes against my people every day," only to be held hostage and tortured in Liberia during the civil war in his host country, UNHCR said.

Returning refugees receive polio injections, mats, blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, soap, dry food to last two months and a kitchen set, as well as $8 to pay their way home from Zimmi way station. Two months later they receive another package of food to last two months.

UNHCR also runs nearly 300 community empowerment projects in the returnee areas to help returnees and the receiving communities to reconstruct their lives.