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Guinea: Massakoundou detainees released

Briefing notes

Guinea: Massakoundou detainees released

29 March 2001

Local authorities in Kissidougou, south-western Guinea, yesterday ordered the release of all but six of several hundred people, mostly refugees, who were detained around the Massakoundou camp on Monday. Refugees in Massakoundou told UNHCR that the army came to the camp on Monday morning, allegedly searching for rebels who could be hiding in the camp. Approximately 500 people, including some NGO workers, were brought to the town of Kissidougou for further questioning and detained at the Municipal Youth Centre. In addition, one GTZ/UNHCR truck was seized by the army to carry out the operation. UNHCR protection staff immediately requested access to the detainees, but without success. UNHCR also sent a letter of protest to the Guinean Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express concern over the security of both refugees and staff members.

Security constraints have become more stringent in and around Kissidougou following persistent rumours of rebel attack in the region. Additional roadblocks have been set up in town and the movements of humanitarian staff are restricted, subject to specific authorisation by the Préfet of Kissidougou. Yesterday the authorities in Conakry announced they would ensure that all roadblocks are removed.

UNHCR activities to transfer refugees continue from the northern part of the Parrot's Beak to Katkama camp, some 30 km north of Guéckédou. Katkama is being used as a transit point. Refugees are also being taken to the new site of Kountaya. Since Sunday last week, a total of 589 vulnerable people who fled camps in the Parrot's Beak following the Nongoa attack on March 9th, were taken to Katkama pending further transport to a relocation site in Kountaya, north of Kissidougou. The vulnerable were picked up in several places, including Koundou Lengo Bengo, Dandou and Mongo.

UNHCR also started moving refugees from Massakoundou camp in order to defuse the tension there and take the refugees to safety. A first convoy on Wednesday took 281 refugees from Massakoundou to Kountaya. A census carried out recently in Masskoundou found that the population there was about 14,000 refugees, much less than previously thought. Bus transport from Massakoundou to Conakry, by private companies and the Catholic mission, have carried on operating at least twice a week, taking candidates for boat repatriation.

A total of 23,000 refugees have now been relocated to Kountaya since the beginning of the movement in early February. The new site can take an additional few thousand people. A second site, in Boreah, also in the Albadaria Prefecture, should be ready to receive refugees by the end of this week. A third site, in Sembakounya (Dabola Prefecture), could be ready within two weeks. Refugees in Kountaya are being allocated plots of land where they can start building a temporary shelter. UNHCR will provide communal building kits as well as family house kits. However, a significant number of relocated refugees (at least 35%) still express the wish to return home to Sierra Leone as soon as possible. UNHCR is studying possible ways to facilitate transport to Conakry for those wishing to repatriate.