Guinea: relocation from border camps
UNHCR has fielded a series of joint missions to the camps in the border regions of Guinea to assess the security situation as well as refugee needs. Some of the camps had not been visited by international staff for several weeks following the withdrawal in mid-September of UNHCR and other organisations in the wake of a spate of attacks which cost the life of our head of office in Macenta and the abduction of another UNHCR worker.
According to Guinean authorities, there have been 15 attacks in the region bordering Liberia and Sierra Leone in recent months, resulting in some 360 Guinean deaths. UNHCR administers dozens of camps in the area. A technical mission to Kissidougou and Guéckédou last week found that there was less harassment at checkpoints by young vigilantes and there had been few incidents in the camps themselves, despite continuing rumours of possible attacks in the Guéckédou area. UNHCR's medical coordinator warned of a "deteriorating nutritional situation" in the camps. Food distribution has now resumed, beginning in Forécariah with supplies for 27,000 beneficiaries between 17 and 21 October. Next week, distribution will resume in Guéckédou, with deliveries for 43,000 beneficiaries. Most of the refugees in Guéckédou have not received food since the June-August period.
Meanwhile, the government of Guinea proposed six new camp sites which could be used for the relocation of some 125,000 refugees currently in the most insecure areas of the border zones. UNHCR is going ahead with feasibility studies. Two of the proposed sites were rejected - one because of its proximity to a forest reserve and the other because local villagers refuse to host new refugees. The other four sites can accommodate a total of up to 100,000 people - 25,000 at each site - without causing damage to the environment. A site identification mission has been sent to the area to determine the cost of developing the proposed sites, which are all located in the Kissidougou area, some 100 km from the border. In 1999, UNHCR and its partners had started moving 20,000 refugees from border areas in Guéckédou, but the operation came to a standstill because of a lack of funds.
Discussions are also underway for the relocation of up to 30,000 refugees in the Forécariah Prefecture, which is only 30 km from the Sierra Leone border.
Guinea hosts a total of 460,000 refugees, including 330,000 Sierra Leoneans and 130,000 Liberians.