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UN refugee agency reports more Liberians fleeing fighting cross into Guinea

UN refugee agency reports more Liberians fleeing fighting cross into Guinea

Liberian refugees
With refugees still trickling in to Guinea from a weekend of violence in north-eastern Liberia, the United Nations refugee agency has begun to transfer more than 7,000 newly arrived Liberians from the border region to safer inland camps.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today thousands of Liberian refugees fled to Guinea over the weekend to escape renewed fighting between government forces and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) in Ganta town.

The first wave reached Guinea's southern border with Liberia on Saturday morning, some of them with gunshot wounds, said Pirjo Dupuy, UNHCR's Deputy Representative in Guinea, who has travelled from Guinea's capital, Conakry, to UNHCR's office in Nzerekore to oversee assistance for the new arrivals.

Local authorities had earlier estimated that more than 15,000 Liberian refugees had arrived in Guinea, but they later revised the estimate to nearly half the number.

Refugees told a UNHCR team that went to the town of Baala on Monday, some 5 kilometres from the border, that they had been shot at as they escaped to Guinea.

The majority of those registered are Liberians, although there are also scores of Ivoirians and Sierra Leoneans.

The latest influx into Guinea comes in the wake of other population displacements in the region. Since the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire started last September, some 90,000 people have fled into neighbouring countries, mainly Liberia. By the end of 2002, fighting in Liberia itself had sent over 90,000 Liberians fleeing into neighbouring countries, including Guinea, which already hosts more than 100,000 Liberian refugees.