MSF urges for immediate relocation of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Guinea

Press release: Kissidougou/Brussells, January 19, 2001 - In recent weeks MSF has witnessed increased levels of instability and insecurity in the Guekedou area in Guinea, which for the time being hosts around 250,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. The region of Parrot's Beak in particular, located south west of Guekedou, has faced several incidents of attacks by armed groups which has put approximately 180,000 refugees and the Guinean resident population in the area (around 70,000) at severe risk. Following the last attack on January 12th, several thousand refugees have fled their camps trying to reach the Nyaedou camp north of Guekedou, which is supported by MSF. The Nyaedou camp itself has also recently been threatened by armed groups and cannot be considered safe. In this camp, MSF staff talked to several refugees who reported both the harassment and killing of civilians. One woman stated: "We want to leave, we want to get out of here. We don't care for food, but just take us away." A large part of the refugees in Parrot's Beak seem now to be trapped in the fighting and have, as such, no access to safer areas. In addition, and due to the insecurity in the area, humanitarian assistance to the refugees is permanently hampered and intermittently impossible. Dr. Morten Rostrup, President of the MSF International Council, has been in the region over the last three weeks and recently visited the Parrots Beak region and Nyeadou camp. "Urgent action is needed before it is too late. If the relocation is not being implemented immediately, MSF fears a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region and we may face soon a major humanitarian crisis," says Rostrup. An assessment in Parrot's Beak conducted by MSF on January 11 - just one day before renewed fighting occurred - confirmed the lack of basic humanitarian assistance such as medical care and food in some, but not all, of the visited camp sites. There are plans to relocate refugees to sites near the towns of Albadaria and Dabola. These sites are located further inland and judged safe by the authorities and the UNHCR. But the existing time frame will not allow the necessary immediate solution to the problem. MSF finds the current situation unacceptable. To guarantee the security of the refugees, which should now be the highest priority, the relocation process must accelerate regardless of potential logistical constraints. MSF therefore urges the Guinean government and the UNHCR to sign proper agreements immediately in order to facilitate and accelerate transport of refugees to the new locations.