Fighting Causes Sierra Leonean Refugees to Cross into Guinea

from US Information Agency
Published on 23 May 1997
(UNHCR temporarily suspends repatriation efforts) (180)
By Wendy Lubetkin
USIA Staff Writer

GENEVA -- The resumption of fighting in Sierra Leone has caused at least 6,000 refugees to cross into Guinea, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which said May 23 that it is temporarily suspending all repatriation efforts to Sierra Leone.

UNHCR said the new influx of refugees to Guinea began last week, and appears to be associated with the fall of the town of Kamakwie to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Guinea hosts 250,000 Sierra Leonean refugees out of a total of 380,000 who fled their country between 1991 and 1996. The remaining Sierra Leonean refugees are in Liberia (120,000) and The Gambia (4,000).

UNHCR began repatriating refugees to Sierra Leone on a small scale in February 1997 and had hoped to begin a large-scale repatriation later in the year.

"We have suspended all repatriation movements to Sierra Leone for the time being," said UNHCR spokeswoman Pam O'Toole.