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Guinea: relocation northwards continues

Briefing notes

Guinea: relocation northwards continues

10 April 2001

Relocation continues from southern Guinea's troubled refugee camps to safer sites further north. During the course of last week, three convoys were organised to the new site of Boreah which was opened on April 4. Boreah is now hosting close to 1,500 refugees. The first relocation site in Kountaya has now reached full capacity, with a total of 26,000 refugees relocated. Additional convoys will run this week for a total relocation of some 3,000 people. Some of the recently relocated refugees were evacuated from Koundou Lengo Bengo, a camp in the northern part of the Parrot's Beak. Others were picked up in Katkama, a transit camp north of the town of Guéckédou, where thousands of refugees have gathered in the past weeks following fighting in the border region. Others are being moved from Massakoundou, a camp close to Kissidougou where UNHCR has its operational base. Massakoundou is still holding some 11,000 refugees. Since September last year, when fighting erupted around Guinea's border zones, Massakoundou, like Katkama, has been a gathering point for refugees fleeing camps close to the fighting. At its peak, the camp may have held as many as 30,000 refugees. Massakoundou was also used by refugees as a departure point towards Conakry where they can catch a ferry to Freetown. Regular buses, run privately or by the Catholic mission, continue to transport refugees to Conakry each week. Due to security concerns and the proximity of the Sierra Leone border to the west, the authorities have repeatedly insisted that Massakoundou camp should be closed. Two weeks ago, several hundred refugees were arrested in Massakoundou and briefly detained on suspicion of belonging to a rebel movement. All but two have now been released.

Because of overcrowding in the Conakry transit centre, currently holding more than 3,000 people, UNHCR is setting up an additional transit centre some 100 km north of Conakry, with a capacity of 1,000. The centre will be used for a one-night stopover before refugees coming from camps in Guinea's forest region are taken to the port.

In Sierra Leone, UNHCR is assisting with the continued arrival of both boat and spontaneous foot returnees from Guinea and Liberia. A total of 53,053 former refugees have now been assisted back home or resettled in host communities in Lungi (north of Freetown) and Barri chiefdoms, as well as in temporary settlement sites in Jembe and Gerihun, in the east of the country. The Jembe and Gerihun sites have also reached full capacity of 5,000 and 2,500 persons respectively. Gerihun can be further expanded to take another 2,500 persons, pending clearing of the densely forested area.

In Daru, eastern Sierra Leone, it is estimated that more than 3,200 returnees from both Guinea and Liberia are awaiting onward transportation by UNAMSIL to Kenema, some 50 km to the south, where they are registered and assisted by UNHCR. The total registered in Kenema so far is 4,300 returnees, including 3,200 from Liberia and 1,100 from Sierra Leone.