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Refugees in Liberia receive ID cards

News Stories, 26 April 2005

© UNHCR/A.Hopkins
Sierra Leonean refugees receiving their identity cards in Samukai Town refugee camp near Monrovia.

MONROVIA, Liberia, April 26 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has started issuing identity cards to refugees around Monrovia in a joint effort with the Liberian government to enhance the protection of refugees in the country.

The ID card distribution started over the weekend and is mainly aimed at Sierra Leonean refugees who remain in camps near the Liberian capital. Other recipients include urban refugees of different nationalities who had undergone the registration process during the first phase of the profiling exercise that started earlier this month.

"Now I feel much safer with my ID card in my hands, as we have faced much embarrassment being unable to produce our IDs upon request," said Sierra Leonean refugee Kenyei Swaray. "This ID card shows that the Liberian government is aware of our presence and that UNHCR will ensure that we receive the protection we deserve."

Swaray and her two children were among the 280 Sierra Leonean refugees at Samukai Town refugee camp to receive the new identity cards printed and signed by UNHCR and the government of Liberia. The rest of the 2,715 Sierra Leonean refugees living in three refugee camps near Monrovia will receive their ID cards in the coming weeks.

UNHCR helped some 40,000 Sierra Leonean refugees to return home from Liberia before it ended its repatriation operation to Sierra Leone in the middle of last year. For those who choose to remain in Liberia for a variety of reasons, the agency is providing them with assistance this year to integrate locally. The material assistance should be phased out by the end of the year, leaving the Sierra Leonean refugees with protection and legal assistance.

Meanwhile, the profiling exercise is continuing in Liberia's south and east. The registration has been completed of Ivorian refugees at Saclepea refugee camp in Nimba county as well as in Little Weebo and Harper in Maryland county. The UNHCR team also plans to register Ivorian refugees living in border communities in south-eastern Liberia.

The registration and profiling exercise is part of UNHCR's efforts to develop a common database using a new system called ProGres. It seeks to document refugees, verifying and compiling extensive biographical data and photographs into a single database. The compiled data makes it easier for UNHCR staff to conduct refugee status determination, provide assistance and protection, process resettlement cases and facilitate voluntary repatriation and local integration.

By Francesca Fontanini and Sarah Brownell
UNHCR Liberia

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Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

On July 21, 2004, the final UNHCR convoy from Liberia crossed over the Mano River bridge into Sierra Leone with 286 returnees. This convoy included the last of some 280,000 refugees returning home after Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2000. Overall, since repatriation began in 2001, UNHCR has helped some 178,000 refugees return home, with a further 92,000 returning spontaneously, without transport assistance from UNHCR.

UNHCR provided returnees with food rations and various non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and agricultural tools in order to help them establish their new lives in communities of origin. To promote integration of newly arrived returnees, UNHCR has implemented some 1,000 community empowerment projects nationwide. Programmes include the building and rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, as well as micro-credit schemes and skills training.

UNHCR and its partners, alongside the UN country team and the government, will continue to assist the reintegration of returnees through the end of 2005.

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

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