TITLE=U-N / LIBERIA REFUGEES (L ONLY)
INTRO: The United Nations refugee agency, U-N-H-C-R,
is ending a U-N program that helped Liberian refugees
return home from Sierra Leone. Lisa Schlein reports
TEXT: In all, the U-N refugee agency has returned 18-
hundred Liberian refugees since the voluntary
repatriation operation began last year.
The agency says most of these people decided to return
home after fighting rocked Sierra Leone's capital,
Freetown, early in the year. That attack by Sierra
Leonian rebels killed an estimated five-thousand
people and cut off aid to refugee sites.
He says all of the 18-hundred refugees initially
returned to the Liberian capital, Monrovia. He says
many remain there in search of economic opportunities
that are better than those offered in rural areas. He
says the biggest problem facing Liberia is helping the
returnees become contributing members of society.
/// STROMBERG ACT ///
Our staff inside Liberia see more and more
crowded schools schools that are working two
shifts with children spilling out of the
classroom into the hallways. It's clear that
that country will need a great deal of
development aid if we're able to make this
repatriation durable. For people to stay, they
need to be able to start working and start
economic activities as quickly as possible.
/// END ACT ///
Mr. Stromberg says most of the refugees are farmers,
so the refugee agency gives them tools and seeds to
help them restart their lives.
During Liberia's civil war, nearly one-half-million
people fled to neighboring countries, most to Guinea
and Ivory Coast. Since 1997, an estimated 340-
thousand Liberian refugees have returned home on their
own or with U-N help.
Mr. Stromberg says the U-N-H-C-R is ending its
repatriation program at the end of this year. He says
the agency believes too many of the refugees are
becoming dependent on international aid and it is time
to bring this form of assistance to an end.
/// STROMBERG ACT TWO ///
Many of these people find life easier in the
refugee camps where they benefit from free
education and free medical care and have been
using that help in order to get started in
Liberia. At the same time, making trips back to
Liberia to start planting their fields or
working on their houses while part of their
family has remained behind either at school or
in refugee camps.
/// END ACT ///
While the U-N agency will no longer assist refugees
to go home in the new year, Mr. Stromberg says the
agency will continue to help the thousands of Liberian
refugees still living in nearby countries who either
cannot or do not wish to go home. (Signed)
15-Dec-1999 12:16 PM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1716 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list