Sierra Leone refugees in Guinea want home in West
CONAKRY, June 23 (Reuters) - About a thousand refugees who fled a civil war in Sierra Leone to camps in neighbouring Guinea are refusing to return home and want to be moved to Western countries, a humanitarian source said on Friday.
Guinea shelters about 42,000 refugees from wars in neighbouring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, mainly in the capital Conakry and in the southeastern Forest Region, near the border with those countries.
The United Nations announced this week that it would close the Boreah camp at Kissidougou in southeastern Guinea, about 600 km (375 miles) from Conakry, provoking protests from over 1,000 refugees who refuse to return home.
"The Sierra Leonian refugees at Boreah refuse our proposals of reinsertion and don't want to benefit from the voluntary repatriation scheme. There are around 1,000 people in this case," said the source, who asked not to be identified.
"They all wish to be placed in the resettlement programme in Western countries."
Sierra Leone, which will hold presidential elections next year, is slowing recovering from its brutal 1991-2002 civil conflict, during which gangs of drugged child soldiers rampaged across the country raping and mutilating civilians.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was flown to The Hague this week to face 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for backing the brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
Stephano Severe, representative for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Guinea, said the organisation could not force people to return home.
"When a refugee refuses the aid of UNHCR, we can do nothing. These refugees cannot benefit from the resettlement programme," he said. "Once our mission is finished, they can do what they wish but they will no longer benefit from our help."
At the worst moments of the wars in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, there were more than 600,000 refugees in Guinea. Some 10,000 Liberians have returned home since the start of this year, following historic presidential elections late last year.
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