Overland repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees continues with a sharp increase in the number of persons opting to repatriate. UNHCR has facilitated the return of 6,753 Sierra Leonean refugees since the exercise resumed by land in February 2004. With the level of enthusiasm and zeal for the exercise, UNHCR is optimistic that a greater number of the remaining 6,500 refugees would take advantage of the repatriation assistance before the 30 June deadline, when assistance will phase cease. Meanwhile, sensitisation on the voluntary repatriation exercise continues in the three refugee camps.
UNHCR /Government of Liberia (GoL) To Open Transit Site in Bong County
UNHCR in collaboration with its government counterpart, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, LRRRC, recently carried out a joint mission to Belafana to discuss with local authorities on the possible of establishing a transit site. The proposed transit is to accommodate Liberian returnees from nearby Lofa County. UNHCR believes that given the proximity to Lofa County, displaced Lofians will find it easier to return home with or without assistance.
Meanwhile, UNHCR and its implementing partner, Liberians United to Serve Humanity (LUSH), has embarked on an infrastructure rehabilitation assessment mission in Bong County. The assessment is aimed at identifying strategic infrastructures that need to be rehabilitated. The assessment has been carried out in the Panta and Jorquelleh districts and UNHCR has further requested LUSH to undertake similar assessments in the remaining districts of Fuamah, Salala and Sanoyeh.
Mission To Voinjama
A mission to reassess the extent of destruction to the Voinjama Sub Office premises with a view to start repairs was recently undertaken. The mission also reported that Life in Lofa County is gradually returning to normal. Refugees/IDPs have returned spontaneously and are carrying out rehabilitation work on their homes. It was also observed that the presence of civil authority is slowly being realized. The LRRRC is now operational in Voinjama. The mission also reported that ex-combatants in Voinjama have expressed their readiness to disarm.
Peacekeepers Benefit from Gender Training Workshop
Peacekeeping troops in close proximity to the UNHCR assisted refugee camps recently benefited from a training and awareness session on Sexual Gender-Based Violence. The workshop, which focused on the consequences of sexual exploitation, was organized to build the knowledge of peacekeepers on protection (prevention and response) mechanisms in line with human rights and to ensure that participants have an understanding of sexual exploitation and abuse as part of gender-based violence. The training was organized in collaboration with International Rescue Committee (IRC). 25 persons attended the session.
Relocation of Internally Displaced
399 IDPs from the N. V. Massaquoi Community School in West Point have been relocated to the Buchanan Transit Shelter. The transit site has a capacity for 500 people. It has bathhouses, latrines and one hand pump. The newly relocated IDPs will be supplied with mats, blankets and other essential available items.
The relocation was carried out against the backdrop that 2000 IDPs were stranded at the N. V. Massaquoi Community School in West Point and needed assistance to be relocated. Following screening, the number reduced to 399 because the majority of the people at the center were posing as IDPs.
The exercise was held in collaboration with LRRRC, OCHA and WFP.