UN agency repatriates Liberian refugees in Guinea in face of growing instability

UN agency repatriates Liberian refugees in Guinea in face of growing instability

Despite rapidly increasing instability in Guinea due to a general strike and the resulting declaration of a state of emergency, the United Nations refugee agency is pressing forward in its efforts to assist those who have fled to the country and today repatriated 200 Liberians to their homeland.

The latest group brings to 600 the total number refugees returning to Liberia this week. At present, there are no others volunteering go home, Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva today.

UNHCR, without incident, was able to distribute food to two camps, one hosting 7,000 Liberian refugees and another housing 3,000 from Côte d’Ivoire, this week, he said.

Of the more than 31,000 refugees residing in Guinea, nearly 22,000 are Liberian. There area also 5,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and 4,500 from Côte d’Ivoire. Most refugee camps are situated along Guinea’s border with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.

The agency also reports that there have been no unusual population movements into Guinea from its neighbouring countries of late.

More than 100 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 10 January, when a general strike began, and the majority of those deaths have occurred amid popular protests over President Lansana Conté’s choice of Eugene Camara as Prime Minister.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned the reported killing of civilians and called on the Government to adhere strictly to its human rights obligations.

UNHCR has helped 90,000 Liberian refugees, more than half of whom were in exile in Guinea, return home since starting a voluntary refugee programme in October 2004.