Guinea: Refugee operations continue - just

Briefing Notes, 20 February 2007

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 20 February 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is managing to carry on its humanitarian operations for thousands of refugees in Guinea amid an increasingly complex and uncertain situation, including a general strike and a government-declared state of emergency.

This week, we are scheduling two voluntary repatriation movements for Liberian refugees one towards Yekepa tomorrow (21 Feb.) and the other to Voinjama on Friday (23 Feb.). In total, approximately 500 refugees will go back to Liberia in the two return movements.

Overall, some 90.000 refugees have repatriated to Liberia since the start of UNHCR's voluntary return programme for Liberians in October 2004. More than half of the returning Liberian refugees went home from exile in Guinea, the number one West African host nation involved in the Liberian repatriation operation.

Throughout the recent crisis, UNHCR and its partners in Guinea have been able to maintain activities in the refugee camps though at a considerably reduced level due to prevailing security conditions. Over the past days, our field teams from Nzérékoré in eastern Guinea visited refugee camps at Lainé and Kouankan. According to their reports, the situation in the camps remains orderly and calm. Despite growing difficulties for the general population to obtain basic necessities, no tensions were reported between the refugees and local Guineans in communities surrounding the camps.

The site at Lainé is currently hosting some 11,000 Liberian refugees. Distribution of WFP food in Lainé was completed this weekend without incident. The same exercises in the Kouankan 1 camp, hosting some 7,000 Liberians, and Kouankan 2, hosting some 3,000 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire, are scheduled to take place this week.

UNHCR also continues to monitor the situation along Guinea's borders, but no major population movements have been reported in any of the neighbouring countries (Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia).

Guinea still hosts more than 31,000 refugees, including nearly 22,000 Liberians. In addition, there are some 5,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and 4,500 from Côte d'Ivoire. Nearly 70 per cent of the remaining refugee population is accommodated in camps 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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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.