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UN to begin massive evacuation of refugees from Guinea's "Parrot's Beak"

UN to begin massive evacuation of refugees from Guinea's "Parrot's Beak"

In a massive relocation exercise expected to take a month, the United Nations will start evacuating tens of thousands of refugees from the volatile "Parrot's Beak" region of southern Guinea next week, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today.

According to Ron Redmond, the first evacuation convoy on Monday will pick up vulnerable refugees in Kolomba, the furthest camp at the tip of the Parrot's Beak, which borders Liberia and rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone. Subsequent convoys will run regularly until all refugees wishing to be relocated from Kolomba are evacuated.

There are an estimated 30,000 refugees, mostly Sierra Leoneans, in the camp, Mr. Redmond said, adding that later convoys will pick up refugees from other camps in the region.

"UNHCR will transport the refugees to one of the new relocation sites we've recently opened to the north, away from the border," Mr. Redmond said. So far, more than 30,000 refugees have been relocated from other camps along the fringes of Parrot's Beak to three sites in Albadaria and Dabola Prefectures.

A fourth site in Albadaria was due to receive its first refugees today, he added. In total, six new sites had been agreed on by Guinean authorities, with a total capacity of 100,000 refugees.

Mr. Redmond also said that all the necessary resources have been mobilised and a special contingent of 250 civilian and military staff has been assigned by the Government of Guinea to assist in the evacuation operation. They will be responsible for sensitising the local population, ensuring access for humanitarian organizations and safe passage for refugees. "We are confident the necessary security and protection standards are in place to ensure the safety of refugees and humanitarian workers," he said.