GIN figures


Guinea hosted nearly 29,300 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire. By December, 11,900 refugees lived in one of Guinea's three refugee camps, Lainé, Kouankan I, and Kouankan II, and at least 9,300 registered refugees lived in urban areas.

Although nearly 100,000 Sierra Leoneans repatriated between 2000 and 2004 toward the end of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, some refused. Several hundred Sierra Leoneans living within and close to the former Boreah refugee camp near Kissidougou in 2007 rejected both repatriation and long-term local settlement options.

Some 8,100 Sierra Leonean refugees remained in Guinea.

The UN-assisted voluntary repatriation program for Liberians, in which 51,000 Liberians participated since 2005, ended in June. Nearly 16,000 recognized Liberian refugees remained in Guinea at year's end, but the Government claimed there were as many as 50,000, including those who had not registered, and planned to conduct a census in May 2008. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) planned to encourage these refugees to move to host communities and to settle locally.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reported cases of refoulement. There were reports of rape and gender-based violence (GBV) in the camps, mostly by other refugees but in some cases by Guineans. Assault and forced prostitution persisted in the refugee camps, though to a lesser degree than in prior years. Refugees were more vulnerable than nationals because they lacked documentation. The Government also protected camp-based refugees more than it did those living outside.

Guinea was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), without reservation, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The 1992 Constitution guaranteed asylum to foreign nationals mistreated because of political, philosophical, or religious opinion; race; ethnicity; or intellectual, scientific, or cultural activities. The 2000 Refugee Law incorporated both Conventions' definitions of refugee and those recognized under the mandate of UNHCR and prohibited expelling or extraditing refugees or asylum seekers, including during appeals. In August, UNHCR's former national partner, the National Bureau for Refugee Coordination (BNCR) was replaced by the National Commission for the Integration and Monitoring of Refugees (CNISR). CNISR's Preparatory Committee conducted preliminary interviews with applicants and made recommendations to the Eligibility Committee, which heard and decided cases. Applicants could have counsel and UNHCR monitored proceedings. Rejected applicants could appeal to a committee of high-ranking magistrates but it met too infrequently to function effectively.

In January, there were nearly 3,900 pending asylum applications, and some 730 asylum seekers applied during the year. The Government decided about 590 cases during the year, recognizing some 370 as refugees and rejecting nearly 220. The Government also continued to provide temporary protection to some 45 people from various African countries who may not have qualified under the 1951 Convention.

Detention/Access to Courts

Authorities arrested about a dozen refugees in the capital, Conakry, in 2007. Most arrests and detentions of refugees involved criminal charges, but some cases were due to lack of documentation.

UNHCR monitored the detention of refugees, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) generally monitored detention conditions in the country. According to the U.S. State Department, "prisons were overcrowded, and conditions remained inhumane and life threatening." Challenging detention was difficult due to limited resources and a lack of training of prison and judicial authorities. Refugees and asylum seekers had access to courts, but Guineans reportedly intimidated those who sought to file complaints against locals into dropping their cases.

There was reportedly greater use of traditional forms of dispute resolution in cases involving rape and sexual assault, typically resulting in impunity or a monetary exchange 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.

The roughly 11,900 refugees living in camps possessed UNHCR refugee certificates featuring their photographs.

The Government issued some 370 letters of recognition to newly recognized refugees, which they sometimes used as identity papers. Asylum seekers did not receive any form of documentation. Law enforcement officials generally respected refugee documentation, but they were more likely to harass refugees than nationals. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law provided that authorities issue refugees and stateless persons special identity cards. The 2000 Memorandum of Understanding between Guinea and UNHCR provided that the Government 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, but asylum seekers and refugees in urban areas reported harassment by authorities and locals where they lived and when they moved about. Police and security forces detained people at military roadblocks to extort money. Most refugees benefited from food assistance, shelter, and physical protection only if they resided in camps.

While refugees were eligible to apply for international travel documents, the Government issued only two, leaving 18 applications pending at year's end. The Constitution reserved to citizens the rights to freedom of movement, choice of residence, and leaving the country. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law, however, allowed resident foreigners to leave the country, to move about freely, and to change their place of residence, provided they notified police in both localities.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees had difficulty obtaining employment because employers did not recognize their foreign credentials. Unregistered Liberians also had difficulty working in the formal sector because of their lack of documentation.

Some 3,000 Ivorian refugees in Kouankan camp attained increasing self-sufficiency through farming.

The 2000 Refugee Law treated refugees on par with nationals from countries with which Guinea had the most favorable treaties concerning the right to work. Residents of the Economic Community of West Africa 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. A 1986 presidential ordinance required employers to ensure that their foreign workers had work permits, for which employers paid $300 annually.

Although the 1992 Constitution offered to all the right to work, to join unions, and to strike, refugees worked without labor protection.

Refugees could engage freely in business, own property, open bank accounts, and repatriate assets when they returned, subject to customs fees. Some refugees with businesses, however, complained that authorities extorted false business taxes. The 1992 Constitution did not limit to citizens its protection of private property.

Public Relief and Education

The Government did not restrict humanitarian access to refugees but unrest at the beginning of the year led some agencies to suspend activities until February.

The World Food Programme aided camp-based refugees until June, after which only Ivorian refugees in camps were eligible. In Conakry, only the neediest refugees received basic health services, one-time financial assistance, and referral to safe houses in cases of GBV. Liberian and Sierra Leonean camp residents who had refused to repatriate reportedly did not receive food or access to health services.

Refugees and ECOWAS citizens had access to social services on par with nationals, and refugees' access to health services and vaccinations was also on par with nationals. Hostilities grew between host and refugee populations to some degree because refugees received greater access to basic services than did citizens.

UNHCR encouraged refugees to move out of camps and into host communities. In January 2008, UNHCR transferred to the Government all the facilities at two refugee camps that it had operated for Liberian refugees between 1995 and 2007. It handed over the Lainé and Kouankan I refugee camps in the southeast to the Government to use for both nationals and refugees, including some 8,000 Liberians.

Educational programs for all levels for Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees phased out in June, but continued for Ivorian refugees. UNHCR provided repatriating Liberian refugees with employment and job training. Some 160 refugees outside the camps received income-generating grants to help them integrate.

The 2000 Refugee Law provided that refugees should enjoy access to public relief and primary education on par with nationals.

The August 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) Guinea prepared for international donors held refugees responsible for the high rate of poverty in the Forest region: "This situation is the direct result of the influx of refugees it has received since the outbreak of hostilities in Liberia and in Sierra Leone, and the rebel attacks in 2001." The PRSP also mentioned residents of refugee-hosting areas as a vulnerable population group ("highway workers, women, traveling salespersons, men in uniform and youths, and people in areas with a high concentration of refugees") that the national development program wished to target in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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