Internally displaced Liberians start journey home; first airlift from Nigeria

News Stories, 8 November 2004

© UNHCR/F.Fontanini
Displaced Liberians beaming on the first convoy from Perry Town camp to their home in Grand Cape Mount county.

MONROVIA, Liberia, Nov 8 (UNHCR) Undaunted by the recent unrest in Monrovia, Liberians uprooted by 14 years of civil war continue to repatriate on today's first return convoy of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the first airlift of refugees from Nigeria.

On Monday, 500 internally displaced Liberians left Perry Town camp in Montserrado county for Sinje transit centre in Grand Cape Mount county. They received a package containing relief items and two months' supply of food before leaving for their home areas in Grand Cape Mount county.

"We have been working over the last one year to ensure that your areas are safe for you to return home," Gyude Bryant, Chairman of Liberia's National Transitional Government, told his compatriots at the launch of the IDP repatriation programme in Perry Town camp. Six counties have now been declared safe for return.

"We are glad to return home today following years of living in camps in our own country," said Baima Sarnih, 38, who heads an eight-member family.

"No matter what the situation is back home, it is proper to return to rebuild our lives," added Demar Diazolu, a 28-year-old IDP on the inaugural convoy.

Almost half of today's returning IDPs were refugees who had returned from neighbouring countries to Liberia on their own following the Accra peace accord in August last year. Upon their return, they found their areas of origin unsafe for return, and were accommodated at IDP centres in the Monrovia area until their home areas were declared safe for return.

By April 2005, UNHCR and its partners hope to help the 261,886 IDPs living in 20 camps near the capital to go home. UNHCR has been directly involved with Liberia's internally displaced population since 2000, when fighting erupted in the western part of the country, causing thousands of Liberians to seek protection in camps for Sierra Leonean refugees.

Also on Tuesday, a first airlift of 112 refugees left Nigeria for Liberia. Some 1,000 of the 6,000 Liberian refugees in Nigeria's Oru camp have so far expressed interest in repatriating on the planned thrice-weekly flights.

Land convoys from Guinea are scheduled to start on Wednesday following a delay caused by unrest in Monrovia last week.

Since the start of UNHCR's facilitated return programme to Liberia on October 1, more than 800 Liberian refugees have returned from Sierra Leone and Ghana. Another 70,000 are estimated to have made their own way home since August last year.

"Despite the latest security incidents localised in the Monrovia area, refugees are still willing to return home and UNHCR will continue to facilitate the repatriation and reintegration of about 340,000 Liberian refugee scattered in the region," said UNHCR's Representative in Liberia, Moses Okello.

In addition to the assistance package for returnees, UNHCR and its partners are working to rehabilitate schools and health centres in the war-devastated country. The agencies are also providing farming communities with agricultural equipment and materials for rebuilding homes.

By Francesca Fontanini
UNHCR Liberia




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Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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