UN refugee agency urges Guinea to open its borders to Liberians seeking asylum

17 May 2001

The United Nations refugee agency today said it was deeply disturbed at Guinea's continued refusal to open its borders to scores of Liberian civilians attempting to flee fighting in their native country.

This morning, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met with senior Guinean officials in Conakry to voice growing concern over the country's failure to meet its international obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

According to the agency, villagers in the southern border towns of Yomou and Macenta have reported that Liberian asylum-seekers fleeing renewed violence had been turned back by Guinean military when they tried to enter the country. Hundreds have reportedly gathered on the Liberian side of the border waiting to get through.

The delicate security situation in the area has prevented UNHCR staff from visiting on a regular basis. Guinean authorities have classified the border region as a military operation zone, requiring authorization to travel there.

UNHCR is caring for over 80,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, most of whom currently live in areas close to the insecure border. The agency, which is working to transfer them to a safer site, said today that it stands ready to assist new arrivals.

 

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