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

UNHCR repatriates 298 Liberian refugees by sea from Ghana

News Stories, 28 July 2006

© UNHCR/N.Jehu-Hoyah
Liberian refugees on a deck of the Brenda Corlett, which sailed out of Tema in Ghana yesterday carrying 298 returnees to Liberia.

TEMA, Ghana, July 28 (UNHCR) After unexpected delays, almost 300 Liberian refugees have finally set sail for home from Ghana aboard a chartered passenger-cargo vessel. The Gambia-registered Brenda Corlett set sail from the port of Tema on Thursday night and was expected to reach the Liberian capital, Monrovia, within four days.

It was the first such return by sea since UNHCR began in February to actively promote voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees, but there have been three other repatriations by ship from Ghana since UNHCR launched its voluntary repatriation programme in October 2004.

The departure of the 298 Liberians brings the number of people repatriated with UNHCR assistance from Ghana to some 3,800. Others have gone home by air.

The refugees were clearly happy to be going back to a country just starting to recover from years of conflict and devastation. "I really feel happy to be going home. I have not seen my parents for 14 years and finally I will see them," said 28-year-old John Washington, who had worked at a hotel while in Ghana.

Like most of the other refugees boarding the Brenda Corlett, he had lived in the sprawling Buduburam settlement near the Ghanaian capital of Accra.

Washington, who moved to Ghana in 1995 after two years of refuge in Côte d'Ivoire, was realistic about the difficulties he could face in Liberia, where work on rebuilding the shattered economy and infrastructure is only just beginning. "You have to go and look for it [work] and you'll find it. It can be hard, but you'll find it," he said.

UNHCR's representative in Ghana, Aida Haile Mariam, told a dockside press conference that chartering a boat meant the refugees could take home the belongings and possessions they had accumulated during their years in exile. Some had been in Ghana for 16 years.

Mariam also alluded to the challenges ahead for the refugees. "More progress is still needed in Liberia to bring it back to its former glory. But with the civic spirit evident with the departure of these refugees today, we are assured that a complete recovery will be attained," she said.

UNHCR had hoped to organise the return in mid-June, but the trip was delayed. Some of the refugees said they were relieved to be finally leaving.

Mariam said the repatriation programme would "continue with a combination of safe sea and air transportation from Ghana to Liberia, with the air movements being specifically for refugees with special needs. "

On arrival in Monrovia, the UN refugee agency will provide the returnees with an assistance package including food, household items and basic tools to support their reintegration. They will also be given opportunities for skills training.

UNHCR has helped some 73,000 Liberian refugees return home from around the region since 2004. The repatriation programme will continue until June 2007. The next planned movement from Ghana will be an air charter for refugees with special needs next week, to be followed by another sea movement the following week.

Ghana hosts some 38,000 Liberian refugees, who form the majority of the approximately 54,000 refugees in the country.

By Needa Jehu-Hoyah in Tema, Ghana




UNHCR country pages


UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

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

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

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

Nigeria: Back to schoolPlay video

Nigeria: Back to school

When gun-toting Boko Haram insurgents attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria, thousands of children fled to safety. They now have years of lessons to catch up on as they return to schools, some of which now double as camps for internally displaced people or remain scarred by bullets.
Return to SomaliaPlay video

Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.
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.