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9,133 Refugees, 235 Asylum Seekers in Sierra Leone
By Aruna Turay
Jun 19, 2009, 17:26
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It has been revealed that even though Sierra Leone has on several occasions taken the last position among the worlds least developed countries, yet, the country is still hosting 9,113 (nine thousand one hundred and thirty-three) refugees and also 235 (two hundred and thirty-five) asylum seekers.

This disclosure was made by the Senior Protection Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Veronica Modey-Ebi. According to Ms. Modey-Ebi, most of these refugees are Liberians who remained in Sierra Leone after the massive voluntary repatriation operation between October 2004 and June 2007.

She said there are still 4189 Liberian refugees living in rural areas while 4897 are living in the urban areas, adding that there are also some 47 refugees from various nationalities.

UNHCR operation in Sierra Leone, she went on, aims at enhancing and strengthening the national capacity to assume full responsibility of asylum and protection of refugees.

She maintained that since the last two years, UNHCR has embarked on a local integration program for the Liberian refugees who opted to integrate locally.

"Meanwhile, Sierra Leone continues to offer a favorable protection environment for refugees as a party to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 protocol. The Government and the people of Sierra Leone have shown their willingness to and commitment to supporting the local integration of refugees despite political, social and economic challenges", she noted. According to her, UNHCRs Comprehensive Community Based and Capacity Building Program is designed to enhance the absorption capacity of the host communities, promote peaceful coexistence and engage both refugees and host communities in livelihood activities to increase their self-reliance capacities.

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