Despite the current turmoil in Guinea-Conakry, the UN refugee agency plans to repatriate hundreds more Liberian refugees, who are in camps there. Guinea is host to more than 31-thousand refugees, most of them Liberians.
Andre Mahechic is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the situation in Guinea.
“The strike that has been paralyzing Guinea has also has also limited our access to the camps…but we have managed, despite this, to keep the minimal presence and certainly to keep the life-saving operations active. At the same time, we had a number of Liberian refugees, who volunteered for repatriation to Liberia. And we have scheduled a convoy fore tomorrow, Saturday, which should take 460 returnees back to Ganta in neighboring Liberia,” he says.
Today, UNHCR staff is in Nzerekore in southeastern Guinea to meet with authorities about the security situation and the route for the convoy.
Asked how many Liberian refugees the UNHCR has repatriated, Mahechic says, “In total, since October 2004 when the repatriation started, we have repatriated over 90,000 refugees from five or six neighboring countries. Most of them, more than 46,000…more than half came from Guinea, which makes Guinea the top of the list of West Africa countries enrolled in the Liberian repatriation operation. The rest have returned from Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, as well as other countries further away from Liberia.”
So far, he says that there’s no evidence of large numbers of people in Guinea wanting to leave the country due to the political turmoil.