UN High Commissioner for Refugees to visit returning refugees in Liberia
High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers also plans to go to a demobilization and cantonment site, where Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande, Force Commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), will brief him on the ongoing demobilization and disarmament process. In the evening, Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to meet with Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia.
The High Commissioner arrived yesterday in the Liberian capital Monrovia on the final stop of his eight-day tour of West Africa to witness the last phase of repatriation to Sierra Leone and to pave the way for the start of refugee returns to Liberia.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Lubbers met with Jacques Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia and chief of UNMIL. The High Commissioner said he was pleased at the level of cooperation between UNHCR and the UN Mission, as well as with UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York, in the pursuit of common goals, chiefly refugee and displacement issues, returnee security, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. He stressed that with the deployment of UNMIL troops, access to populations in need of help is now possible all over the country.
That access will prove vital, as the UN refugee agency expects vast numbers of Liberian refugees - perhaps as many as 100,000, out of a total of 320,000 in West African countries - will return from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire this year. Of this number, many are expected to repatriate on their own. Already, more than 6,000 Liberian refugees have crossed into Liberia this year and are staying in camps near Monrovia, the total number of spontaneous returnees across the country being probably much higher, the agency says.
Over the weekend, the High Commissioner was in Guinea, where he discussed the upcoming termination of repatriation and assistance for Sierra Leonean refugees in the country and prospects for the local integration of the remaining refugees. He also reviewed environmental rehabilitation activities for areas affected by the long-term presence of refugees and visited centres for vocational training and activities against sexual and gender-based violence.