U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Guinea



Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reported cases of refoulement although refugees reported cases of rape, sexual assault, and attempted rape. They were also more vulnerable than nationals were because of lack of documentation, language barriers, and inability to work. The Government, however, maintained that other refugees were generally responsible for such acts.

Guinea was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, without reservation, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The 1992 Constitution guaranteed asylum to those foreign nationals mistreated because of political, philosophical, or religious opinion; race; ethnicity; or intellectual, scientific, or cultural activities. The 2000 Refugee Law incorporated the Conventions' definitions of refugee and those recognized under the mandate of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and prohibited expelling or extraditing refugees or asylum seekers, including during appeals. The law reserved decisions on the admission, cancellation, and cessation of refugee status for the National Hospitality and Aid Committee (CNHS), on which a UNHCR representative would sit as an observer and allowed appeals to the Minister of Justice. The CNHS, however, did not function and a National Bureau for Refugee Coordination made refugee status determinations. The Bureau's Preparatory Committee conducted preliminary interviews with applicants and made recommendations to the Eligibility Committee, which heard and decided cases. Refugees could have the assistance of counsel, and UNHCR monitored proceedings. Rejected applicants had the legal right to appeal to an Appeal Committee of high ranking magistrates, but it did not meet regularly or often enough to function effectively.

UNHCR and the Government estimated the registered refugee and asylum seeker population at more than 35,000, about 70 percent of them Liberians, but UNHCR acknowledged that there could be as many as 50,000 more unregistered Liberians. According to the Government, more than 1,200 persons applied for asylum during the year. It granted 530 applications, denied 620, and left some 3,900 pending. The Government agreed to the local integration of about 2,000 Sierra Leoneans but did not naturalize any.

About 54,200 Liberians repatriated, more than 25,000 of them with UNHCR's help.

Detention/Access to Courts

Police occasionally arrested and detained refugees in 2006 for lack of documentation, including having only copies of their identity documents instead of originals. UNHCR monitored the detention of refugees and intervened in cases of extended, inhumane, or unlawful detention. On several occasions, police detained refugees after they forced their way into UNHCR's office to make protection complaints. Generally, they released these refugees within a few hours at most.

There were no reports of detention or physical punishment because of traditional or customary forms of dispute resolution by extralegal authorities, but there was greater use of such in cases involving rape and sexual assault, typically resulting in impunity or an exchange of money between families. The formal justice system, on the other hand, often did not protect victims, charged their families fees, and was reluctant to arrest Guinean perpetrators. One exception was the court in Lola, which sentenced a rapist to one year in prison and ordered him to pay nearly $300 to his refugee victim.

The nearly 26,700 refugees in camps received UNHCR attestation certificates with their photographs. In December, UNHCR extended the certificates of nearly 6,700 refugees in Conakry. The 500 or so refugees the Government newly recognized received letters of recognition, which they sometimes used as identity documents. Asylum seekers received no documentation. Despite UNHCR sensitization and training, some police did not recognize UNHCR attestations as valid. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law provided that the authorities should issue refugees and stateless persons special identity cards. The 2000 Memorandum of Understanding between Guinea and UNHCR provided that the Government should issue such cards within a month.

The 1992 Constitution extended to all persons its protections of access to courts, equality before the law, due process, and proportional punishment. The 2000 Refugee Law prohibited punishing refugees or asylum seekers for irregular entry or presence. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law provided for house arrest for otherwise deportable refugees.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Guinea did not confine refugees and asylum seekers to camps or segregated settlements and they traveled freely throughout the country and resided where they chose. Refugees who moved out of the camps, however, lost benefits, such as food aid, provided by UNHCR.

The Government granted international travel documents to fewer than ten refugees for reasons other than repatriation or resettlement, such as medical treatment, study or employment abroad, or religious pilgrimage.

The Constitution reserved to citizens the rights to freedom of movement, choice of residence, and leaving the country, but the 1994 Entry and Stay Law also allowed resident foreigners to leave the country, to move about freely, and to change their place of residence, provided they notified the police in both localities.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The 2000 Refugee Law treated refugees on par with nationals from countries with which Guinea had the most favorable treaties in regard to the right to work. Residents of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including refugees from Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Sierra Leone, legally had the right to work without permits or licenses.

The 1994 Entry and Stay Law required all other non-nationals to have temporary residence cards and forbade employers to hire foreigners without prior authorization from the National Office of Employment and Labor and the immigration authorities. Refugees worked without labor protections. A 1986 presidential ordinance required employers to ensure that their foreign workers had work permits, for which employers paid $300 annually.

The 1992 Constitution offered to all the right to work, to join unions, and to strike.

Refugees could engage freely in business, own property, open bank accounts, and repatriate assets when they returned, subject to customs fees. The 1992 Constitution did not limit to citizens its protection of private property.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR supplied food, health services, primary education, and other basic services to refugees in camps. Only the neediest refugees in urban areas received aid, including basic health services and one-time financial help. UNHCR planned to phase out repatriation and food aid by mid-2007 in favor of self-reliance projects, legal support, and shifting education from the Liberian to the Guinean curriculum for those who remained. The Government provided refugees primary level education in French on par with nationals.

The 2000 Refugee Law provided that refugees should enjoy treatment on par with nationals with regard to public relief and primary education. Refugees and citizens of ECOWAS countries had access to social services on par with nationals. The Government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian aid agencies and granted them access to refugees.

UNHCR and other international donors financially supported the rehabilitation of communities in the Forest region, which hosted refugees for 17 years. Guinea's 2002 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) it prepared for international donors mentioned refugees in reference to "the cost of border security and sending troops to intervene between rival forces in the countries in conflict" and its 2007 progress report on the PRSP said refugees were "taking a toll in economic, social, and environmental terms." The PRSP promised an HIV/AIDS prevention program targeted to "the most vulnerable population groups, including ... residents of areas with high concentrations of refugees" but did not include refugees in any development programs.


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