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Sierra Leone: government urges Guinea refugees to go back home

Briefing notes

Sierra Leone: government urges Guinea refugees to go back home

15 April 2003

UNHCR and Sierra Leone government officials are conducting a joint information campaign in Guinea's refugee camps for Sierra Leone refugees, encouraging them to go back home.

The information campaign provides refugees with first-hand information about the situation in their homeland, so they can make an informed decision on whether to return. It covers the security situation in the areas the refugees come from. It also tells them of UNHCR and government efforts to improve education and healthcare and provide shelter for those going back.

The refugees have responded well to the campaign and many show willingness to repatriate. A recent survey among some of Guinea's 35,000 Sierra Leonean refugees remaining in camps showed that up to 80 percent of them were willing to return this year.

Some have asked for additional help such as transport of livestock and furniture.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has decided to speed up the pace of returns from Guinea to Sierra Leone through the once volatile Parrot's Beak region, increasing the frequency of repatriation convoys to six per week, with each convoy carrying 500 people. The repatriation through Guéckédou and the Parrot's beak started on April 4, following the opening of a new causeway across the Moa River that marks the border between Guinea and Sierra Leone. In the last 10 days, some 2,800 refugees have used this new, faster and more direct return route into Sierra Leone's Kailahun district.

UNHCR hopes to return up to 26,000 refugees before the rainy season starts, using both the new route and the less direct old Kambia route. If the current pace of returns continues, the repatriation to Sierra Leone could be completed by the end of next year.