TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / REFUGEES (L ONLY)
INTRO: The United Nations Refugee Agency says the
Liberian government has allowed the agency to transfer
a group of elderly and sick Sierra Leonian refugees to
a safer location. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports the
refugees were transported from the northern Liberia
town of Kolahun to a camp near the capital, Monrovia.
TEXT: The U-N refugee agency says more than 10-
thousand Sierra Leonian refugees had abandoned their
camp in Kolahun in mid-August, after it was attacked
by armed men.
But U-N-H-C-R spokesman Paul Stromberg says a group of
about 165-elderly and sick people remained behind. He
says they were either too ill or too old to walk to a
safer site as the other refugees had done.
Mr. Stromberg says this group of elderly people, as
well as family members who remained behind to care for
them, have been transferred to a camp in Sinje, near
Monrovia. He says the moving operation took one week
/// STROMBERG ACT ONE ///
They had been trapped in Kolahun for about two-
months. Ever since there was an attack in the
town in mid-August and humanitarian workers had
to evacuate they had been waiting there. We had
been able to supply them by helicopter. They
did get medical attention during that time.
But, the situation obviously could not go on
like that forever.
/// END ACT ///
Several-weeks ago, the U-N refugee agency asked
Liberian authorities for permission to transfer the
refugees to a safer camp. It also asked for an armed
escort to accompany the convoy on dangerous roads.
Mr. Stromberg says Liberia's government was reluctant
to let the operation go ahead because of what it
considered security risks. He says the convoy was not
attacked en-route. But, it encountered problems at
various checkpoints. He says this stemmed from a
basic mistrust between different segments of Liberia's
military and the police.
/// STROMBERG ACT TWO ///
On one occasion the military travelling with the
convoy were detained briefly because the people
at the roadblock did not accept their authority.
On another occasion, the minister of defense
himself had to intervene to make sure the convoy
was allowed to pass. So, clearly there is a
great deal of tension in this northern area of
Liberia -- so much so that members of one part
of the armed forces doubt the authority of the
/// END ACT ///
Mr. Stromberg says road conditions between Kolahun and
Sinje are so bad the convoy could travel only about
100-kilometers a day. He says on many occasions,
heavy earth-moving equipment had to be used to pull
trucks out of the mud.
He says the new camp at Sinje has medical facilities
and has room for several thousands more refugees. He
says almost five-thousand Sierra Leonians in the town
of Tarvey, near Monrovia, also will be transferred to
26-Oct-1999 13:45 PM EDT (26-Oct-1999 1745 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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