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Guinea: activities suspended

Briefing notes

Guinea: activities suspended

8 December 2000

UNHCR remains extremely concerned about the situation in Guinea, particularly in the Guéckédou area. The latest, unconfirmed reports we have received indicate the town is under the control of the government, but many residents have fled amid fears of further rebel attacks. Our press release yesterday noted that UNHCR was trying to determine the status of its local staff in the south-western region. Some staff and family members from Guéckédou arrived yesterday in Conakry in four UNHCR vehicles. Another group has joined UNHCR colleagues in Nzérékoré, south-east of Guéckédou. We are now trying to determine if everyone is accounted for. No international staff were in Guéckédou. Rumours continue to circulate throughout the region of further rebel attacks, creating a general mood of insecurity. Some reports say Guéckédou is now virtually empty of its civilian population.

Beyond these immediate concerns, UNHCR is extremely worried about the fate of some 400,000 refugees in the wider region of southern Guinea adjacent to Liberia and Sierra Leone. And we once again appeal to the international community to help Guinea implement measures to secure its border areas, particularly those which contain large numbers of refugees.

All activities in the region have been suspended. However, some 160,000 refugees did receive food in Forécariah, Kissidougou and Guéckédou between mid-October and the end of November. The food distribution was part of an emergency humanitarian operation carried out by UNHCR Conakry based on several field assessment missions that were conducted in the aftermath of a withdrawal of humanitarian workers following the killing of a UNHCR staff member in September.

The Guéckédou area (Guéckédou, Kissidougou and Macenta) has the largest concentration of refugees in Guinea - with 80 percent of the 460,000 Liberians and Sierra Leoneans present in the country. We remain very concerned about the refugees - both because of the cross-border attacks as well as local animosity generated by the violence.