UNHCR ending operations in Kissidougou region of Guinea

Briefing Notes, 29 September 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 September 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR's office in Kissidougou, Guinea, is scheduled for closure tomorrow (30 Sept.), ending a nearly 18-year presence in the region. We established our first office in the area in 1989 initially for eight years in the town of Guéckédou, near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia. In December 1997, the office had to be moved for security reasons to Kissidougou, some 80 km north. At that time, thousands of refugees were fleeing into Guinea, escaping the civil wars in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

UNHCR's decision to close the office and end its presence in the Kissidougou region is primarily the result of a successful repatriation of Liberian refugees. Between March 2005 and September 2006, UNHCR repatriated 16,000 out of the total 18,000 Liberian refugees in Kissidougou region. The remaining 2,000 Liberian refugees, who were either unable or unwilling to return, were transferred this month to Kouankan, near the town of Nzérékoré in south-eastern Guinea.

With more than 41,000 assisted returns to Liberia, the UNHCR operation in Guinea tops the list of West African countries involved in the Liberian repatriation operation which, since October 2004, brought back home over 90,000 Liberians.

Throughout its time in the Kissidougou region, UNHCR assisted tens of thousands of Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees sheltered in three locations. Boreah camp hosted only Sierra Leoneans and was closed at the end of 2004. The other two, the adjoining camps of Télikoro and Kountaya, were merged into one site (Kountaya) in 2005. All activities in the Kountaya camp are scheduled to cease this weekend, thus allowing the departure of UNHCR from the region.

In closing down, UNHCR has donated to the local communities that helped refugees for so many years some 3,600 items ranging from medical supplies and school uniforms to furniture and sewing machines.

The closure of the office in Kissidougou will allow UNHCR to rationalise and consolidate its financial and human resources in Guinea. The country still hosts some 39,000 refugees, including more than 30,000 Liberians. The rest are from Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. A majority of the remaining refugee population is in camps located along the Guinean border with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, while some 9,000 are scattered across the Guinean capital, Conakry.

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