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DATE=12/15/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=U-N / LIBERIA REFUGEES (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-257178 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 from Geneva. 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) NEB/LS/JWH/KL 15-Dec-1999 12:16 PM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1716 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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