UN refugee agency set to end Liberian repatriation programme
“As the next step, after the end of organized repatriation, we are preparing, together with the countries still hosting thousands of Liberian refugees, to start a number of long-term projects aimed at achieving their local integration,” said Ron Redmond of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“The purpose of these projects will be to bring the main displacement chapter in West African region to a genuine and successful closure,” he added.
The departure of the last repatriation convey which transported 550 Liberians yesterday from Kouankan camp in the Nzérékoré area of eastern Guinea to the Loufa County in the neighbouring Liberia, signalled “the end of an era of large repatriation in the West African region,” Mr. Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva.
Between 1989 and 2003, more than 350,000 Liberian refugees fled the civil war raging in their country. The fighting left an estimated 200,000 dead, and over 800,000 internally displaced, and devastated the country’s infrastructure and economy.
Launched in October 2004, the programme, which has helped to repatriate more than 105,000 refugees mostly from Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria, is one of the largest UNHCR operations in recent African history.
To date, more than 150,000 refugees have returned to Liberia, with 50,000 registered Liberian refugees returning home on their own, in addition to the over 100,000 refugees who returned with the assistance of the UNHCR. “They were encouraged by the restoration of peace and inauguration of the democratically elected president and Government,” Mr. Redmond said.
UNHCR was also involved in the return of some 326,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their areas of origin in Liberia through a programme that was successfully completed in April 2006. These IDPs had been living in camps, mainly around the capital, Monrovia.
“This success story was possible because of the unambiguous wish of the Liberian refugees to return, the commitment of the Liberian government to bring its people back home, the efforts of UNHCR and other partners and the support of all countries in the West African region,” Mr. Redmond said.
At the same time, he noted that there are some 80,000 Liberian refugees in West Africa, including more than 23,000 in Ghana, 22,000 in Côte d’Ivoire, 13,000 in Sierra Leone, 14,000 in Guinea, some 5,000 in Nigeria and the rest scattered in other countries in the region.
As the next step, after the end of organized repatriation, UNHCR is preparing, together with countries still hosting thousands of Liberian refugees, to start a number of long-term projects aimed at achieving their local integration. The purpose of these projects will be to bring the main displacement chapter in West African region to a genuine and successful closure.