Guinea: Information campaign to promote return for Liberian refugees in Conakry

Briefing Notes, 4 April 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 April 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Today (Tuesday) in Conakry, the Guinean capital, UNHCR is starting a week-long information campaign promoting voluntary return to Liberia aimed at some 3,000 Liberian refugees who have been living in the city for many years and hold refugee cards issued by the national authorities.

Since the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president, the political and social situation has continued to improve in Liberia. The promotion campaign the first of its kind in Conakry hopes to inform the refugee community of these positive changes and to encourage Liberian refugees to return back to their country. The team involved in the promotion campaign includes representatives of the governmental Bureau national de coordination des réfugiés (BNCR), UNHCR and several representatives of Liberian refugees in Guinea.

Most of the 3,000 Liberian refugees in Conakry come from the Liberian counties of Nimba, Montserrado, Bong, Lofa and Grand Gedeh and fled to the capital right at the start of the civil war in December 1989. They have been under the protection of UNHCR and the Guinean authorities.

Until now, the information campaign promoting return had taken place only in the refugee camps, where the majority of Liberian refugees, some 44,000, live.

Since the start of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation to Liberia in October 2004, some 28,000 Liberians have returned home from Guinea with our assistance, including some 7,600 who returned in 2006, and 15,000 who returned by their own means. In 2006, UNHCR expects 35,000 refugees to return to Liberia from Guinea. Currently, there still some 175,000 Liberian refugees scattered throughout West Africa. The main asylum countries are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.




UNHCR country pages

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by the tragedy of forced displacement. While millions of refugees were able to return to Angola, Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan over the last 15 years, the numbers of internally displaced people continued to grow. At the beginning of 2009, in addition to some 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 11.6 million people were internally displaced by conflict in Africa.

To address forced displacement on the continent, the African Union is organizing a special summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced people from October 19-23 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Heads of state and government will look at the challenges and at ways to find solutions to forced displacement. They are also expected to adopt a Convention for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people (IDP) in Africa, which would be the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continental scope. This photo gallery looks at some of the forcibly displaced around Africa, many of whom are helped by UNHCR.

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.