Red Cross societies in Guinea and Liberia have upgraded contingency plans to receive an influx of Sierra Leonean refugees should the fighting in the capital, Freetown, deteriorate, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement yesterday (Tuesday). It said the Red Cross societies of The Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire, traditional asylum countries, were also monitoring the situation.
However, it said refugees were unlikely to reach Liberia because the border with Sierra Leone is being patrolled by the West African intervention force ECOMOG and some 5,000 Liberian troops. It said fleeing Freetown residents were more likely to head for the Guinean capital, Conakry. Therefore, the Guinean Red Cross and the IFRC planned to provide camp management, food, basic supplies, water and sanitation, as well as health education for some 20,000 refugees over an initial six-month period. War and military coups between 1991 and May 1997 have forced some 370,000 Sierra Leonean to seek refuge in Guinea. The UNHCR said yesterday that so far there had only been 450 asylum seekers in Conakry and Forecariah, east of the Guinean capital.