• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Liberian returnee camp closes as inhabitants go home

News Stories, 13 July 2005

© UNHCR/S.Brownell
Perry Town returnee camp was home to 11,315 Liberians who had returned from Sierra Leone. All of them have since gone home, mostly to Lofa county.

MONROVIA, Liberia, July 13 (UNHCR) Looking at the vast expanse of marshland littered with debris, it's hard to imagine that this used to be one of Monrovia's best camps for returning Liberians.

At its peak, Perry Town returnee camp hosted 11,315 Liberians who had returned from exile only to find that their home areas were not yet ready to receive them. They were among the tens of thousands who had flocked home on their own following the peace deal and exile of former President Charles Taylor in August 2003.

"We knew we were coming back to conditions that were not 100 percent, but we decided to return from Sierra Leone because we were homesick," said one returnee. "At least in an internally displaced situation, we could easily access assistance, unlike in areas of return where there were no humanitarian agencies."

Another noted, "Compared to the other camps, Perry Town returnee camp offered the best services and facilities. The shelter had spacious rooms two bedrooms and it was good for the children to have their own space."

Returnees at the camp received monthly food rations from the World Food Programme, safe drinking water, relief items, free health care provided by MERCI, and education in a school run by UNICEF. The environment was bustling, with returnees teaching each other traditional skills, women selling farm produce, and the occasional outdoor theatre performance by Talking Drum Studios.

But as one returnee noted, "Many of us are happy to leave the camp even though we know we now have to fend for ourselves." Another said, "The challenge is ahead but we are tired of staying in camps and willing to go home to start farming again."

Amid improving conditions in Liberia, UNHCR started last October to help Liberian refugees and displaced people to return to their areas of origin. Those going home under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme receive a return package that consists of a transport grant that ranges from US$5-45 depending on the distance home, food such as wheat, oil and maize from WFP, as well as relief items such as kerosene, lanterns, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets and kitchen sets.

"We are happy as the package provides us with needed items that some of us can't afford or that are not even available in our communities," said Bendu Massary, a returnee at Perry Town camp.

Perry Town returnee camp closed in late June after its last inhabitants left for home. The structures were dismantled and the land returned to its owner. It was the sixth such camp to close in the Liberian capital, with another 27 returnee camps and irregular settlements emptying out as well.

"This is a significant step towards Liberia's recovery as formerly uprooted Liberians can begin the process to rebuild their lives and their country as they engage in productive activities such as farming to help feed themselves and restore the dignity of this country that has so much potential," said UNHCR's Outgoing Representative in Liberia, Moses Okello.

He added, "It is also a demonstration of Liberians' confidence in the peace process that there is security to restart normal living once again."

Increasing returns are also attributable to projects by UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to increase the absorption capacity in areas of return. Okello noted that community-driven initiatives can be supported with the participation of the community members.

UNHCR is implementing over 1,500 community empowerment programmes like the building or repair of schools, clinics, roads, bridges, water points and sanitation facilities. Other projects involve developing facilities to increase the absorption capacity of communities and building their capacity to participate in development initiatives and manage programmes.

The UN refugee agency, together with the Liberian government and its partners, has embarked on a new scheme to attract teachers and medical personnel with incentives to return home to provide much-needed services.

More than 26,000 Liberian refugees have been assisted to go home since October last year. UNHCR has also contributed to the return of 188,636 internally displaced Liberians as part of an inter-agency collaborative effort.

By Sarah Brownell
UNHCR Liberia




UNHCR country pages

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

One Year On: Angelina Jolie-Pitt Revisits Syrian Refugee FamilyPlay video

One Year On: Angelina Jolie-Pitt Revisits Syrian Refugee Family

In June 2015, the UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt made a return visit to Lebanon to see Hala, a feisty 11-year-old girl she met a year ago and one of 4 million Syrian refugees. Jolie-Pitt introduced her daughter Shiloh to the Syrian family.
Iraq: Heartbreak at the BorderPlay video

Iraq: Heartbreak at the Border

As the Syria crisis enters a fifth year, Syrians continue to seek safety abroad. But desperation is driving some to return to their war-torn country.
Ukraine: Destruction in DonetskPlay video

Ukraine: Destruction in Donetsk

Alexander Kovalenko is one of the last people still living on his street in Donetsk, where the conflict in eastern Ukraine has left a trail of destruction. His home was struck by six shells and the roof was blown off. Now Alexander lives amid the rubble, in a little room he has fixed up, waiting for peace to return.