Last repatriation convoy from Guinea's Kissidougou region to Liberia

Briefing Notes, 5 September 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 September 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The final convoy of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme for Liberian refugees residing in the Kissidougou region of Guinea was completed last week, setting the stage for the closure later this month of UNHCR's field office there after 18 years.

The last convoy from the Kountaya and Télikoro camps on Friday was organized by UNHCR and local authorities in Kissidougou and Guéckédou districts and brought back 119 Liberian families (297 persons).

The 61st convoy ended UNHCR's repatriation operation for Liberian refugees in Guinea's Kissidougou region, launched on 10 May 2005. Since the beginning of organised voluntary repatriation to Liberia in November 2004, over 38,000 Liberian refugees have been repatriated with UNHCR assistance. This total also includes some 16,000 Liberian refugees who had been living in camps in the Kissidougou region. Most went back to the Liberian counties of Lofa, Bong, Montserrado and Nimba.

Movements from Kissidougou faced many difficulties, including the weather and logistics.

The closing of the UNHCR office in Kissidougou at the end of this month will be a landmark in achieving UNHCR's objectives in Guinea and will end an 18-year presence helping Liberian refugees in the area.

Yesterday, UNHCR started the relocation of the remaining 3,000 Liberian refugees in Kissidougou's Kountaya camp. These refugees either cannot or would not return to their homeland. Those originating from Lofa and Nimba counties in Liberia are being moved to Kouankan and Lainé camps respectively. The relocation should be completed by 15 September.

More than 33,000 Liberian refugees remain in Guinea. Almost all of them are still in the refugee camps located along the Guinean border with Liberia.

In all, there are still 142,720 Liberian refugees in the region, outside their homeland, primarily in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

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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

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

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.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

On July 21, 2004, the final UNHCR convoy from Liberia crossed over the Mano River bridge into Sierra Leone with 286 returnees. This convoy included the last of some 280,000 refugees returning home after Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2000. Overall, since repatriation began in 2001, UNHCR has helped some 178,000 refugees return home, with a further 92,000 returning spontaneously, without transport assistance from UNHCR.

UNHCR provided returnees with food rations and various non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and agricultural tools in order to help them establish their new lives in communities of origin. To promote integration of newly arrived returnees, UNHCR has implemented some 1,000 community empowerment projects nationwide. Programmes include the building and rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, as well as micro-credit schemes and skills training.

UNHCR and its partners, alongside the UN country team and the government, will continue to assist the reintegration of returnees through the end of 2005.

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

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.