The United Nations refugee agency today announced the successful conclusion of its 18-year operations in the Kissidougou region of Guinea during which it sheltered tens of thousands of Liberians and Sierra Leoneans fleeing vicious civil wars before assisting their return to their recently pacified homelands. With more than 41,000 assisted returns to Liberia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operation in Guinea tops the list of West African countries involved in the Liberian repatriation operation which, since October 2004, brought back home over 90,000 people.The office in the east-central region, scheduled for closure tomorrow, was set up in 1989, initially for eight years in the town of Guékédou, near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 1997, it had to be moved for security reasons to Kissidougou, 80 kilometres to the north. “UNHCR’s decision to close the office and end its presence in the Kissidougou region is primarily the result of a successful repatriation of Liberian refugees,” spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.Since March 2005 the Agency repatriated 16,000 out of the total 18,000 Liberians there. The remaining 2,000, who were either unable or unwilling to return, were transferred to Kouankan, near the town of Nzérékoré in south-eastern Guinea.UNHCR has donated to the local communities that helped the refugees for so many years some 3,600 items ranging from medical supplies and school uniforms to furniture and sewing machines.The closure allows the Agency to consolidate its financial and human resources in Guinea, which still hosts 39,000 refugees – more than 30,000 of them Liberian and the rest from Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Most live in camps located along the border with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, while some 9,000 are scattered across the Guinean capital, Conakry.
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