Guinea: Sierra Leone returns increase
UNHCR officials from Guinea and Sierra Leone have agreed to double the number of refugees assisted to return to Sierra Leone under the facilitated repatriation programme. Assisted returns will increase from 250 to 500 per week. The decision followed increasing pressures from refugees living in camps in Guinea who want to return to their homes. The refugees cite improved security in many districts of Sierra Leone and the prospect of voting in the elections, which are due in May next year.
Starting this week, UNHCR in Guinea will organise two trips of 250 people each per week of the repatriation boat "Overbeck". Until now, an average of 250 persons per week were being repatriated on the Overbeck, including refugees picked up by truck from Albadaria/Kissidougou and Dabola camps, in Central Guinea, and others who continue to spontaneously arrive at Mambya transit centre, some 80 km north of Conakry. Under this new schedule, the first two convoys are planned for today and Friday. The first trip today from Conakry will take back 150 refugees from Sembakounya camp, in Dabola and 100 refugees from Mambya transit centre. On the second trip, on Friday, the "Overbeck" will transport 250 refugees from the three camps in the Albadaria sub-prefecture (north of Kissidougou).
Last week, UNHCR also transferred a total of 1,816 Sierra Leonean returnees from temporary resettlement sites in Lungi, north of Freetown, to their places of origin in the Kambia district. A total of 7,500 returnees are to be moved to Kambia in the coming days.
UNHCR Guinea started facilitating the voluntary return movement of Sierra Leonean refugees in mid-December 2000. Until May 2001, this operation was for refugees who made their way to Conakry from camps. In May 2001, UNHCR started picking up refugees from camps to transport them to Conakry for onward travel by boat to Sierra Leone. In the past year a total of 30,363 refugees have returned to Sierra Leone with assistance of UNHCR by boat.