FIGHTING IN EASTERN LIBERIA PROMPTS UN REFUGEE AGENCY TO WITHDRAW STAFF

From: UN New York, Apr 04 2003 10:00AM
© UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

The United Nations refugee agency today said it has pulled most of its international workers out of eastern Liberia following violence and attacks on areas where it operates transit centres.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the agency’s operations in Liberia for people fleeing the Ivoirian conflict are now severely hampered by an upsurge of recent fighting in the eastern border regions, which has made most of the area inaccessible to humanitarian agencies.

The recent fighting in the Grand Geddeh and Nimba counties has sent thousands of people fleeing, according to spokesman Ron Redmond. “Over the weekend, some 7,000 Liberians arrived in Guinea, many of them severely traumatized and some suffering gunshot wounds,” he told a press briefing in Geneva. “UNHCR is presently transferring them to an existing camp in Lainé, further inland. Meanwhile, we continue to assist some 4,000 of them at the makeshift transit centre in Baala, near the border.”

Mr. Redmond said following recent developments, UNHCR will likely concentrate its relief efforts in Harper, where it has a transit facility to help those in need. “We have also set up a more permanent refugee camp, where some 200 shelters are ready and refugees have started moving in,” he added. “The camp is situated on a large piece of land and it could be extended to host up to 50,000 people if need be. However, all staff –except for those from the town – have temporarily been recalled from Harper.


added by: Robert W. Kranz  April-2003