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.