17 Mar 2004

Guadalcanal Weather Coast refugees return home voluntarily

5:23 pm on 17 March 2004

The Solomon Islands' Disaster Management Office says all 14-hundred people who fled to Honiara from the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal returned home voluntarily.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands and other agencies say all internally displaced people who fled to Honiara have now returned home.

Loti Yates, the director of the Disaster Management Office, says there was no attempt to persuade the refugees to return to their villages; they wanted to go, although many were nervous at first.

"Once we did the first and the second [resettlement] movement, that had indicated to the people who were remaining here that these people back in the Mbambanakira area are living well and there are no reports of further problems coming up, it confirmed to them that it is safe to go back. So they actually made up their own minds to go back, we did not need to pursue them."

Loti Yates says the camps in Honiara have been dismantled, and tarpaulins have been taken back for use in areas on the Weather Coast, such as the Urahai (Ura-hi) Valley, where homes were destroyed in the conflict.

He says a multi-agency monitoring group on the coast is looking at needs, including the need for new homes in some places.