Care and Maintenance activities for Sierra Leonean refugees ended on 30 June. UNHCR however continued with repatriation for refugees who had earlier registered and were unable to come back before the expiration date.
Since the extension of the repatriation exercise, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 1,147 Sierra Leonean refugees in two separate convoys. To date, a total of 12,967 persons have returned to Sierra Leone since overland repatriation resumed in March 2004.
The last organized convoy is expected to depart on 16 July 2004 depending on the number of persons who are still willing to return. The profiling of the Sierra Leonean refugees has also commenced at Saclepea camp. UNHCR's post-30th June strategy includes verification to ascertain the actual number of refugees still in the camps, conduct of Refugee Status Determination and also pursuit of durable solutions focusing on local integration.
Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to inform the refugees on the need to voluntarily repatriate. A mission from the Special Court for Sierra Leone plans to visit VOA camp on 14 July. The mission is expected to explain the mandate and specific role of the Court in Sierra Leone.
UNHCR Begins Deployment of Border Monitors To Keep Track On Spontaneous Returns
Liberians in asylum countries continue to spontaneous return to Liberia. In effort to collect vital data on the number of returnees and areas of return, UNHCR has begun the deployment of monitors at various border entries. Forms and basic guidelines on monitoring are distributed. Returnee registration forms are also made available to local government and implementing and operational partners gathering such information in their localities.
The capacity of these monitors is built through the holding of workshops. In recent time, UNHCR facilitated at a protection workshop on border and field monitoring organized by the Liberian National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) in Saclepea. UNHCR's mandate, fundamental human rights instruments and the principles of returnee monitoring were part of the presentation.
The monitors conduct basic enquiries into the reasons for return, and immediate concerns upon return. So far, returnees reported that shelter is the major concern in the area of origin. UNHCR is already involved in shelter assistance to returnees. For instance a pilot community shelter for 150 families is implemented in Totoquelleh Village, Gborpolu county, where the entire community was rendered homeless by war devastation. More than 40 shelters have been constructed in the first phase of the programme. UNHCR and UN Habitat have also developed the Village Integrated Shelter Project (VISHEP) targeting shelter construction. The programme aims to mobilise about 200/300 families at village level to construct their houses up to sub structure level. Furthermore, UNHCR's reintegration package also consists of shelter material.