afrol News, 21 May - The number of Liberian refugees arriving in Guinea continues to rise. Some 2,000 new arrivals were registered over the weekend in Guinea's Yomou Prefecture, near the border with Liberia's Bong County. This brings to 6,411 the number of new arrivals in the Nzérékoré area over the past week.
A mission of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in the Yomou area yesterday was also told by local authorities of an additional 2,400 refugees in other communes near the border. "Their presence has not yet been confirmed, but we're looking into it," UNHCR spokesperson Rupert Colville said at a press conference in Geneva today.
Newly registered arrivals were receiving high-protein biscuits from the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR was organising their transfer to a transit site at Nonah or to Kouankan camp, according to their point of entry, Colville said. "There, they receive a package of essential domestic items as well as the usual food ration."
Refugees fleeing to Guinea come from northern Lofa County, torn by civil strife since 1999, or from Bong County, where new fighting erupted in recent months and where a fierce battle took place around the town of Gbarnga - Liberia's second town - last week.
Work was continuing at the Nonah transit centre near Yomou, pending completion of a newly agreed temporal refugee camp in Lainé, 60 kms northeast of Nzérékoré, Colville informed. The UN agency was continuing the transfer of refugees from Yomou to Nonah transit camp, and from other border towns further north to Kouankan camp. Four convoys took place to Kouankan in the past 10 days, for a total of 925 refugees transferred.
There are two camps for Liberians in Guinea – at Kola and Kouankan. Together, they now host a total of 27,735 refugees, more than 8,000 of them having arrived this year. In all, Guinea hosts more than 73,000 Liberian refugees, most of them living outside the two camps.
As the new offensive of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) rebel forces started two weeks ago, residents of Liberia's two major cities, Monrovia and Gbarnga, panicked. Gunfight was heard in the outskirts of both towns. Since that, LURD rebels and ill-equipped government forces have fought for the control of the two cities.
Civilians immediately started leaving the combat zones. Hundreds of Liberians first fled into Côte d'Ivoire, in a second migration into that country this year. At the end of 2001, Côte d'Ivoire was host to some 126,000 refugees, including 122,000 Liberians, many of them in urban areas, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Some 5,000 Liberians have arrived Côte d'Ivoire this year already. Now, the major stream is into Liberia's northern neighbour Guinea.
Sources: Based on UN sources and afrol archives