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900 Liberian Families Await Assistance On Ivorian Border - 2003-11-04

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says thousands of Liberian refugees are “encamped on the Ivory Coast border” waiting to return home. They were discovered by an inter-agency mission that spent five days in northeastern Liberia.

Fernando Del Mundo is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the team sent to the Ivorian border. He says it learned there were about 900 Liberian families, or about 4,500 people, who are prepared to “move back as soon as assistance is provided.” Most of the refugees came from Grand Gedeh and Mariland Counties.

He says it will take time to set up cross border relief efforts because international peacekeepers have not fully deployed throughout the country. The refugees need food and medicine, and there are reports that some children are malnourished.

Another team was sent to Nimba County, where there had been reports of fighting between government troops and rebels. However, the inter-agency team found no security problems there.

As for the repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, operations have slowed down. Mr. Del Mundo says very few Sierra Leoneans are asking to return home now that security has improved in the Monrovia area.