Ghana forces Liberian refugees back out to sea

 

A FREIGHTER with some 4,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Liberia was forced back to sea yesterday after passengers were fed and given medical care, officials in Ghana said.

Port officials in Takoradi said the Nigerian freighter Bulk Challenge left at 8.15 p.m. local time but "we don't know its destination".

They said Ghana had returned to, its original firm stand against the refugees apparently because of the discovery of two bodies from a shooting incident on the vessel.

"The bodies of two men killed in a shooting incident have been, found," an international aid official" co ordinating medical care for the refugees at Takoradi said.

West African governments say there are Liberian gunmen on board.

The freighter docked in Takoradi yesterday after a week at sea with no port willing to admit the refugees.

The Ghanaian navy had earlier driven the freighter away from the port when it tried to force its way in, apparently under pressure from passengers after a woman on board haemorrhaged to death.

Aid workers estimated that a total of 20,000 Liberians fleeing the civil war could now be at sea seeking sanctuary.

In Sierra Leone, up to 1,500 refugees from Liberia on board a fishing boat languished offshore after being ordered out of Freetown harbour. The fishing boat Victoria River sailed into Freetown on Saturday, but authorities said it had no clearance to dock and ordered it to anchor 15 miles offshore, an aid worker said.

A doctor reported the first death from the illnesses which are rife on the freighter.

"One woman has died of haemorrhage, and there is an epidemic of diarrhoea, pneumonia and dysentery on board," said Dr Philip Adapoc of the medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Ivory Coast, which already has, 300,000 Liberian refugees, barred the passengers from disembarking and forced the ship back to sea on Thursday after emergency repairs at San Pedro Port.