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5 Nurses to Be Released by Liberian Rebels, UN Refugee Agency Says - 2002-06-28


The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said it is struggling to accommodate refugees fleeing from Liberia to Sierra Leone to escape fighting between rebel and government forces. The UNHCR said, in the last week alone, more than 6,000 refugees have crossed into Sierra Leone.

The U.N. refugee agency said that at least 25,000 people have crossed the border since late December, when a new round of fighting erupted between rebel and government forces in Liberia.

But UNHCR spokeswoman Delphine Marie said the actual number is probably far higher, because many refugees enter Sierra Leone through uncontrolled border points. Eventually, however, she said they end up in a refugee camp.

"They present themselves to the legal border crossings to be transferred from our way stations to the Liberian refugee sites, or they tend to stay by the border, sometimes hoping that calm will come back in the areas and they can return," Ms. Marie said.

She said the UNHCR has learned that five Liberian nurses abducted by rebels are safe and might be released soon. The nurses were taken over a week ago by rebels of the so-called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, who attacked the Sinje refugee camp in Liberia. The UNHCR spokeswoman said the rebel group issued a statement Wednesday saying it was ready to release the nurses at the nearest United Nations Office. But she said no date has yet been set for their release.