Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia move to new homes after UN-funded repairs
Sixteen refugee families living in Liberia now have a place to call home thanks to the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which funded the rehabilitation of 32 houses for Sierra Leoneans who cannot go back to their homeland or are unwilling to repatriate.
During the height of Sierra Leone’s civil conflict as many as two million of the country’s six million citizens were displaced with some 490,000 fleeing to Liberia and Guinea.
With UNHCR’s help more than 179,000 Sierra Leonean refugees returned home voluntarily between September 2000 and July 2004, while many others returned by their own means.
The renovations are part of a process to locally integrate some 3,500 Sierra Leonean refugees living in camps in Liberia. The first batch of 118 people moved into their new homes in Bensonville in Montserrado County last weekend, after making the 60-kilometre journey from the Banjor and Samukai camps.
Welcoming the group to their new community, UNHCR Senior Protection Officer Sharon Cooper told the Sierra Leoneans to no longer consider themselves as refugees. She said they were now on the road to becoming permanent Liberian citizens and should work in harmony with locals to develop their new community.
As part of the local integration process, a further 110 houses are under construction, including 50 in Bensonville and 60 in the nearby town of Memeh.
Last June, the agency announced that as of 31 December Sierra Leoneans who fled their country in the 1990s will no longer be considered refugees since the root causes of the refugee problem in their homeland no longer exist.