Ghana admits Liberian refugee vessel

Takoradi, Ghana (Reuter) - Ghana relented yesterday and said that an old freighter packed with Liberian war refugees would be allowed to dock after earlier blocking it from the port.

But in Sierra Leone up to 1,500 refugees on board a fishing boat, the Victory Reefer, which fled Liberia were ordered out of Freetown harbour.

The freighter Bulk Challenge, which has been at sea for a week with nearly 4,000 Liberians on board, was heading back to the Ghanaian port of Takoradi. Earlier yesterday, Ghanaian authorities used floating cranes to prevent the freighter docking.

The cranes were moved into the path of the vessel shortly after aid workers said shooting had been heard and that it appeared desperate refugees had overwhelmed the captain and forced him to try to dock at Takoradi.

"The vessel is running out of fuel so on humanitarian grounds they are bringing it back to refuel and to give medical assistance to passengers," one port official said. Witnesses said naval units were erecting tents in readiness, but it was not clear if Ghana would enforce its decision that only non-Liberians would be allowed to disembark.

Aid workers estimated that 20,000 Liberians fleeing war could now be at sea seeking sanctuary.