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DATE=10/26/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / REFUGEES (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-255498 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 to complete. /// 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 other. /// 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 Sinje. (SIGNED) NEB/LS/JWH/RAE 26-Oct-1999 13:45 PM EDT (26-Oct-1999 1745 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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