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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 17:40 GMT
UN finds 'lost' refugees

Guinea blames rebel attacks on neighbouring countries
By Alhassan Sillah in Conakry

The United Nations says it has re-established contact with 84,000 mainly Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea.

Concern had been expressed for hundreds of thousands of refugees who went missing following the attacks by insurgents on towns in southern Guinea 10 days ago.

The rediscovered refugees, were spotted in camps and along the route between the towns of Kissidougu and Gueckedou, and form part of the 420,000 who were declared missing without trace by the UNHCR.

Chris Ache, the UNHCR country representative, said on Wednesday that a team dispatched to these areas two days ago had made the discoveries.

The mission, which included aid workers and military personnel, is already providing emergency food and medical services for these refugees.

Information on others

Mr Ache said that he had obtained information suggesting that some 280,000 of the missing refugees are located in an area known as Gueckedou Rurale, where they had previously been camped.

Sierra Leone refugees in Conakry
There is resentment among Guineans towards refugees
He said their situation must have deteriorated significantly because they have received no food or medical care for the past two weeks.

The UNHCR representative said that other humanitarian organisations including the Red Cross Federation and Medecin Sans Frontieres, have joined efforts to locate and help the refugees.

The Red Cross are due to send a plane load of medical supplies to the area on Thursday.

Campaign

Mr Ache added that displaced Guineans are also being provided with relief, and that a sensitisation campaign is now in progress in an effort to convince the Guineans that the Sierra Leonean refugees are not supporting the insurgents.

He said: "We are urging the local people to continue to show goodwill to the refugees".

He spoke of how his staff are being affected by the Guineans' belief that the refugees are harbouring the rebels.

And explained how UNHCR vehicles are again being intercepted by vigilante youths, who accuse the UN body of aiding the rebels.

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | Africa
Crisis talks over Guinea
23 Oct 00 | Africa
Civil war fears in Guinea
25 Sep 00 | Africa
Liberia turns up the heat
15 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea: Crisis long in the making
12 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea's opposition leader jailed
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