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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Liberia refugees return home
Two Liberian women refugees   BBC
Some 400,000 Liberians fled the war
The first of some 100,000 Liberians, who fled 14 years of war, have come home a year after the fighting ended.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is starting an operation to repatriate those who escaped to neighbouring Sierra Leone and Ghana.

The refugees in Guinea and Ivory Coast are set to be sent home later.

The war ended last year when President Charles Taylor went into exile in Nigeria and the rebels were brought into a power-sharing government.

An estimated 400,000 Liberians fled the war but some have already returned home, without the help of the UNHCR.

Tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers are in Liberia, disarming the thousands of combatants, but in rural areas security concerns remain.

Numbers

The first group of 78 refugees has crossed the border from Sierra Leone, while a plane carrying 118 Liberians flew home from Ghana.

Monrovia construction workers
There is building work going on across the city
The return of refugees from northern neighbour Guinea, which has hosted some 150,000 Liberians, is due to get under way in November.

A further 75,000 Liberians are in Ivory Coast, but no time frame for their return has been set yet.

Theresa Outland is returning home after 14 years in Ghana:

"I'm ready. I'm so happy. I want to go home, nothing like home sweet home. Liberia I'm coming," she told the BBC.

But the reality for her and many others is that they will find on their return a country in ruins, their homes destroyed, few jobs and scant resources available to help them.

The disarmament of all fighters in Liberia is due to be completed by the end of October.

So far more than 80,000 fighters have been demobilised.

The last disarmament centre in south-east Liberia has just opened.




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