Briefing Notes, 4 April 2006
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 4 April 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Today (Tuesday) in Conakry, the Guinean capital, UNHCR is starting a week-long information campaign promoting voluntary return to Liberia aimed at some 3,000 Liberian refugees who have been living in the city for many years and hold refugee cards issued by the national authorities.
Since the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president, the political and social situation has continued to improve in Liberia. The promotion campaign – the first of its kind in Conakry – hopes to inform the refugee community of these positive changes and to encourage Liberian refugees to return back to their country. The team involved in the promotion campaign includes representatives of the governmental Bureau national de coordination des réfugiés (BNCR), UNHCR and several representatives of Liberian refugees in Guinea.
Most of the 3,000 Liberian refugees in Conakry come from the Liberian counties of Nimba, Montserrado, Bong, Lofa and Grand Gedeh and fled to the capital right at the start of the civil war in December 1989. They have been under the protection of UNHCR and the Guinean authorities.
Until now, the information campaign promoting return had taken place only in the refugee camps, where the majority of Liberian refugees, some 44,000, live.
Since the start of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation to Liberia in October 2004, some 28,000 Liberians have returned home from Guinea with our assistance, including some 7,600 who returned in 2006, and 15,000 who returned by their own means. In 2006, UNHCR expects 35,000 refugees to return to Liberia from Guinea. Currently, there still some 175,000 Liberian refugees scattered throughout West Africa. The main asylum countries are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.