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

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.