Over 900 Liberian Refugees Return Home
As part of ongoing voluntary repatriation exercise being facilitated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, thousands of Liberian refugees are rapidly making a come-back home from neighboring countries in the sub-region where they sought refuge during years of civil war here.
On July 27, about 965 Liberian exiles footed on their home soil from neighboring La Cote D’Ivoire after decades of being away. The returnees were repatriated from Tabou and other regions in the Ivory Coast in a convoy.
Joseph Fangayereba, Governor of Tabou, accompanied the refugees’ convoy to the Prollo crossing point on the Ivorian side of the border, southeast Liberia. Tabou is an Ivorian city that hosted majority of Liberian refugees during the civil crisis. At least 228 family heads, including 524 females and 441 males returned home.
They boarded the UNHCR ferry; hundreds at a time with their live-jackets and sailed across the Cavalla River to the Duokudi crossing point in Maryland County where they were warmly received by the UNHCR’s Harper Team and the local LRRRC chapter on behalf of the Government of Liberia. Since June 30, 2012, the cessation clause was invoked, meaning Liberian exiles are no longer regarded as refugees.
Speaking to a team of journalists, UNHCR Head of Field Office in Tabou, La Cote D’Ivoire Jose Katunda said several Liberians were happy to return home from the Ivory Coast under the ongoing repatriation exercise.
Mr. Katunda said the repatriation process began ever since but could not meet the June 30 deadline due to some challenges. He however clarified that the UN Refugees Agency was not conducting new registrations of Liberian refugees in the Ivory Coast, but was rather aiding the safe repatriation of those registered before the end of the cessation clause.
According to him, over 10,000 Liberian refugees signed up for voluntary repatriation and approximately 5,000 of that number have already been sent home. Katunda also disclosed that the UNHCR was working along with the Ivorian authorities to secure legal status for Liberians, who wish to be locally integrated.
“You know with this cessation clause, they no longer want to be refugees and decided to come back home. But we have also a few number of those who have asked for exemption, so UNHCR and Cote D’Ivoire are working on these exemption cases and find out really their protection matters and decide after, but they are still under UNHCR’s mandate” he explained.
The Angolan National commended the governments of Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia for opening the borders to humanitarian works and to other partners, including the International Organization for Migration for their support.
Besides providing transportation means for the Liberians to return home, the UN Refugees Agency is also assisting with cash allowance for the returnees to get to their final destination and reintegrate subsequently. Each adult received $375 while children under age 18 got US$275.
Our Maryland County Correspondent gathered that the number of returnees marked the largest the county ever received at a time since the voluntary repatriation started months ago. It was also the 19th trip.
The returnees themselves were very happy as unending smiles filed their facial expression as they descended from of the UNHCR ferry and walked in two straight lines from the crossing point to the security check point, about two kilometers away.