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Last voluntary repatriation convoy for Liberians from two Guinea camps

News Stories, 4 September 2006

© UNHCR/F.F.Millimouno
Liberian refugees from camps in Guinea's Kissidougou region cross the Makona River to reach home.

CONAKRY, Guinea, September 4 (UNHCR) UNHCR has run a final voluntary repatriation convoy for Liberian refugees at Guinea's Kountaya and Télikoro refugee camps and the facilities will be formally closed later this month after the remaining refugees have been relocated to other camps.

Friday's convoy, part of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme for Liberian refugees, left the camps in southern Guinea's Kissidougou district carrying 297 people. It stopped at the Makona River, where the refugees crossed into Liberia by boat.

A further 3,000 Liberian refugees at Kountaya and Télikoro did not want to go home. UNHCR and local authorities began relocating these refugees to other camps on Monday and the process should be finished later this month, when the camps will be closed.

"The closing of the [UNHCR] office in Kissidougou at the end of September will also be a landmark in the fulfilment of UNHCR objectives in Guinea," said Sergio Calle-Norena, UNHCR's deputy representative in the country. The refugee agency has been helping Liberian refugees in the area for 18 years.

Kountaya once held thousands of Liberian fugitives from the devastating 1990s civil war in their homeland. The Liberian government and UNHCR have been encouraging the refugees to return home, especially since the holding of democratic elections last year.

Kumba Hawa, who fled to Guinea in 1994, was among the last group of returnees. She spent six years in Kountaya and returned home to the town of Foya with her children, but no husband to provide for them.

"I am anxious for my five children I hope that God and goodwill will help me to send them to school. I hope I'll be able to provide for them as soon as possible," said the single mother, who will receive assistance from UNHCR and its partners in rebuilding her life in Liberia.

Friday's movement was the 61st and final convoy of Liberian refugees from the Kissidougou region since May last year. Since the beginning of the organised voluntary repatriation programme in November 2004, more than 38,000 Liberians refugees have been repatriated with UNHCR assistance.

There are still more than 33,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea. Almost all of them are in refugee camps located along the mutual border between the two countries.

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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Return to Swat Valley

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Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

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