Guinea-Bissau: voluntary repatriation starts

Briefing Notes, 13 July 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 July 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The voluntary repatriation of refugees from Guinea-Bissau started yesterday (12 July) with the departure of the first 186 refugees from Dakar, out of the 900 registered for the operation. For this operation, UNHCR has chartered a vessel from Cap Verde, the "Djon Dade". The vessel will make several rotations this week between Dakar and Bissau. There is medical escort on board as well as a UNHCR staff member.

Returnees are provided with food assistance supplied by the Government of Senegal and a cash grant by UNHCR. Buses and trucks rented by UNHCR will transfer the refugees from their camp in Thiès, 70 kilometres from the capital, to the port in Dakar.

The civil war in Guinea-Bissau started in June 1998 and ended last May with the overthrow of President João Bernardo Vieira. Apart from the huge destruction of the infrastructure, some 400,000 people were displaced by the war and refugees fled to neighbouring Senegal (900), Guinea Conakry (1,800), Gambia (720) and Cape Verde (600).