World Refugee Survey 2009: Guinea
Guinea hosted some 28,100 recognized refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2008, mostly from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire.
2008 Events Summary
There were no reports of rape, assault, or forced prostitution of refugees during 2008, unlike previous years, according to the U.S. State Department. There were, however, continued tensions between refugees and the host community as refugees received more services than nationals did.
In January, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) turned two refugee camps which housed around 8,000 Liberian refugees over to the Government. Also in January, Jesuit Refugee Service handed its projects in Kouankan II camp, home to refugees from Côte d’Ivoire, over to the Guinean Red Cross.
In April, UNHCR assisted 150 Ivorian refugees in moving from Conakry to Kouankan II camp. The refugees left the city because of housing problems and because they could receive aid in the camp. At the time, the camp held around 3,100 refugees from Côte d’Ivoire.
Law and Policy
Guinea is party to the 1951 Convention, without reservation, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The 1992 Constitution guarantees asylum to foreign nationals mistreated because of political, philosophical, or religious opinion; race; ethnicity; or intellectual, scientific, or cultural activities. The 2000 Refugee Law incorporates both Conventions’ definitions of refugee and those recognized under the mandate of UNHCR and prohibits expelling or extraditing refugees or asylum seekers, including during appeals.
In August 2007, UNHCR’s former national partner, the National Bureau for Refugee Coordination was replaced by the National Commission for the Integration and Monitoring of Refugees (CNISR). CNISR’s Preparatory Committee conducts preliminary interviews with applicants and makes recommendations to the Eligibility Committee, which hears and decides cases. Applicants can have counsel and UNHCR monitors proceedings. Rejected applicants can appeal to a committee of high-ranking magistrates but it meets too infrequently to function effectively.
Detention/Access to Courts
UNHCR monitors the detention of refugees, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and a local nongovernmental organization generally monitor detention conditions in the country.
According to the U.S. State Department, “prisons were overcrowded, and conditions remained inhumane and life threatening.” Guineans reportedly intimidated those who sought to file complaints against locals into dropping their cases.
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.
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.
Refugees and asylum seekers have access to courts, but challenging detention is difficult due to limited resources and a lack of training of prison and judicial authorities.
The formal justice system often does not protect victims, charges their families fees, and is reluctant to arrest Guinean perpetrators.
The 1994 Entry and Stay Law provides that authorities issue refugees and stateless persons special identity cards. The 2000 Memorandum of Understanding between Guinea and UNHCR provides that the Government issues such cards within a month.
The 1992 Constitution extends to all persons its protections of access to courts, equality before the law, due process, and proportional punishment. The 2000 Refugee Law prohibits punishing refugees or asylum seekers for irregular entry or presence. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law provides 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 benefit from food assistance, shelter, and physical protection only if they reside in camps.
Refugees are eligible to apply for international travel documents. The Constitution reserves to citizens the rights to freedom of movement, choice of residence, and leaving the country. The 1994 Entry and Stay Law, however, allows resident foreigners to leave the country, to move about freely, and to change their place of residence, provided they notify police in both localities.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
The 2000 Refugee Law treats refugees on par with nationals from countries with which Guinea have 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 have the right to work without permits or licenses.
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 refugees with businesses complained that authorities extorted false business taxes.
The 1994 Entry and Stay Law requires all other non-nationals to have temporary residence cards and forbids employers to hire foreigners without prior authorization from the National Office of Employment and Labor and the immigration authorities. A 1986 presidential ordinance requires employers to ensure that their foreign workers have work permits, for which employers pay $300 annually.
Although the 1992 Constitution offers to all the right to work, to join unions, and to strike, refugees work without labor protection.
Refugees can engage freely in business, own property, open bank accounts, and repatriate assets when they return, subject to customs fees. The 1992 Constitution does not limit to citizens its protection of private property.
Public Relief and Education
The Government does not restrict humanitarian access to refugees.
Refugees and ECOWAS citizens have access to social services on par with nationals, and refugees’ access to health services and vaccinations is also on par with nationals.
The 2000 Refugee Law provides that refugees should enjoy access to public relief and primary education on par with nationals.
The August 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Guinea prepared for international donors holds 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 mentions 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 wishes to target in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
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