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Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 01:29 GMT 02:29 UK
Guinea aid work resumes
Guinea refugee camp
Guinea is home to 500,000 refugees
By Elizabeth Blunt in Conakry

International aid workers in the West African Republic of Guinea have been able to return to work in refugee camps near the Sierra Leone border for the first time in nearly a month.

Guinea hosts some 500,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, but the refugees are now being accused of collaborating in a series of recent cross-border raids.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees pulled its staff out of the camp after one of its representatives was murdered, and another abducted.

By the time the first deliveries were made on Thursday, some of the camps were completely out of supplies.

The first representatives of the UNHCR and the International Red Cross reached the camps around Forecariah on Thursday and started to deliver food to three camps.

Surrounded

After a series of attacks on the area by armed men coming from Sierra Leone, Guinean soldiers ringed the camp and have been refusing to let any of the refugees leave even to collect food from their farms or to buy it in the market.


The few camp residents who manage to slip out have told of severe food shortages inside and also of the fear of the refugees as battles rage nearby, and the attackers and the Guinean army exchange heavy weapons fire just across the border.

The three camps closest to the border have been completely destroyed, and that area near Pamelap is still too dangerous for civilians to enter.

The delegate of the International Federation of Red Cross societies in Guinea, Leocardio Salmeron, says no one knows where most of the residents of those camps have gone.

Some have been put into other camps - others maybe somewhere in the bush, or have fled back across into Sierra Leone.

UN military observers in Sierra Leone are reporting 10,000 people newly arrived in government-held territory on the Lungi peninsula.

More attacks feared

Mr Salmeron said the Red Cross was delivering enough food to the camp for two months as quickly as it could since, it was always possible that there would be more attacks and the area would be closed again.

Meanwhile, on Guinea's other border near Liberia where there has also been fighting, humanitarian works have resumed in most of the 150 camps in the area.

But around the town of Macenta is a no-go area, with cross-border raids and inter-factional fighting still going on.

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See also:

30 Sep 00 | Africa
Attack in Guinea kills nearly 70
25 Sep 00 | Africa
Liberia turns up the heat
15 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea: Crisis long in the making
12 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea refugee tension rises
10 Sep 00 | Africa
No halt to Guinea crackdown
12 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea's opposition leader jailed
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