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Guinea: some 300 Sierra Leonean arrivals each day

Briefing notes

Guinea: some 300 Sierra Leonean arrivals each day

25 August 2000

Refugees from Sierra Leone are continuing to trickle into Guinea at a rate of about 300 people a day. A total of 1,809 refugees have been allowed to enter since Guinea officially reopened the border last Thursday at three crossing points. They are mainly women with babies, children, elderly and sick people. The refugees are being submitted to a screening process by the military before they are let in, and UNHCR is attending these interviews. The new arrivals come from Sierra Leone's Kono district, were there has been a recent upsurge in fighting between government forces and the RUF rebels. Among the latest arrivals were people who said that eight villages along the Meli River were attacked and burned last Tuesday, they believed by RUF rebels.

The authorities continue to restrict entry to the vulnerables, suspecting that there are a substantial number of RUF combatants in the groups of asylum-seekers. Authorities report that several have appeared to be heavily drugged and aggressive. Both UNHCR and the authorities are concerned that they could create trouble in the camps, should they be mixed with civilians - some of whom were victimized by RUF. UNHCR has proposed that a security camp be created specifically for these ex-combatants, where the authorities can exert better control over potential troublemakers. Meanwhile, there is no confirmation of how many people are still waiting on the other side of the border. Refugee estimates last week ranged as high as 10,000. Conditions are very bad, with cold and rainy weather prevailing in the region. One pregnant woman and three children have reportedly died. Some of those on the other side of the border have reportedly retreated to nearby villages to seek some shelter.

Since May, a total of 12,500 new refugees have arrived from Sierra Leone, both in Guéckédou and Forécariah. Guinea is already hosting 330,000 refugees from that country.