Freetown (ICRC) - Some 400 former Liberian fighters began returning home today from internment in Sierra Leone's Mape and Mafanta Camps. Their families are currently staying in refugee camps in Sierra Leone, and will follow them in the next few weeks.
The terms of release and repatriation are governed by a recent memorandum of understanding between Liberia and Sierra Leone, for which the ICRC provided legal support and advice on international humanitarian law.
The ICRC has extensive experience of repatriation activities. Working closely with the authorities of both countries, ICRC teams in Sierra Leone and Liberia will ensure that people are only repatriated voluntarily and in a safe and dignified manner.
The operation, which is likely to last several weeks, will end a unique situation regarding the internment of foreign fighters in west Africa. After fleeing the civil war in Liberia, these former fighters had been interned in Mape and Mafanta Camps, set up by the Government of Sierra Leone in 2002 and 2003. The ICRC has been monitoring their living conditions, providing them with safe water and other assistance and facilitating contact between them and their families.
For further information please contact:
Caroline Douilliez, ICRC Freetown, tel.
++232 76 620920
Jean-Yves Clemenzo, ICRC Monrovia, tel. ++231 6 528 089
Marco Jiménez Rodríguez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 3217
or visit our website: www.icrc.org