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More and more Liberians returning home from Guinea

News Stories, 20 July 2006

© UNHCR/A.Rehrl
Returnees from Guinea eat a hot meal after reaching Voinjama transit centre in northern Liberia.

MONROVIA, Liberia, July 20 (UNHCR) Liberian refugees are returning home from Guinea in increasing numbers. On July 14, a UNHCR convoy carrying 761 refugees arrived at Voinjama in northern Liberia from camps around the southern Guinea town of Nzérékoré.

A week earlier, a similar convoy brought home 755 Liberians. They were the two largest convoys of returnees since the UN refugee agency launched its voluntary repatriation programme for Liberians in October 2004. The number of Liberians repatriated from Guinea with UNHCR stands at 37,547, including more than 17,500 this year alone.

Voinjama is located in Lofa County, one of the areas hardest hit during Liberia's 1989-2003 civil war. But around 60 per cent of all organized returns have come back to this area. The UNHCR office in Voinjama has received 137 convoys so far, including between 10 and 14 a month this year.

A lot of public and international attention has focused on the area, the bread basket of Liberia, and donors, humanitarian agencies and the government want to encourage returns here.

Since being elected in November, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been calling on her compatriots to return home from several countries in the region. "We take the return of a high number of people as a sign of confidence," she said recently, while warning of difficulties facing people after their return.

High returns to Lofa send a strong signal of hope to Liberians inside and outside the country. The last round of fighting in the civil war began in this northern region in 2001 and swept across the country, leaving 323,000 people internally displaced and forcing tens of thousands to flee the country.

More than 120,000 displaced people have returned to their homes in Lofa within the past year. To build on this, UNHCR has said combined reintegration efforts must continue smoothly.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Liberia last month and stressed the urgent developmental inputs this recovering nation needs, including employment creation and infrastructure rehabilitation.

UNHCR co-funded the recent rehabilitation of a 67-kilometre-long road linking Voinjama with Foya near the border with Sierra Leone. With good roads, repatriation can go ahead unhindered by such uncertainties as the weather.

With its partner, Peace Wind Japan, UNHCR has set up a shelter assistance programme aimed at helping the returnees. It also runs water and sanitation programmes, and education, health, agricultural and income-generating projects among others.

Meanwhile, the Liberia Humanitarian Mid-Year Appeal 2006 is asking donors to contribute an additional US$104 million to help fund humanitarian projects undertaken by non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.

A UN statement released by the UN Mission in Liberia said parts of the country still require urgent humanitarian help. "The majority of the population remains without access to adequate basic services including health care, drinking water, shelter and education. Many of them also face severe food insecurity. This situation is compounded by inadequate infrastructure, with many roads becoming impassable during the rainy season."

Funds were required for providing basic social services to vulnerable populations; revitalising communities to become sustainable, secure and productive; strengthening the capacity of civil society and local authorities to support recovery; supporting Liberian civil society; improving access through rehabilitation of roads and bridges: protecting vulnerable groups and combatting HIV/AIDS.




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

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