Almost 300 Liberian refugees arrive home on chartered vessel

A group of 298 Liberian refugees have arrived home from Ghana aboard the Gambia-registered Brenda Corlett. It was the first UNHCR-assisted return by sea this year, but others are expected soon.

Liberian refugees on the Brenda Corlett, which docked in Monrovia on Monday morning. Top officials attended a colourful welcoming ceremony for the 298 returnees.   © UNHCR/N.Jehu-Hoyah

MONROVIA, Liberia, July 31 (UNHCR) - A group of 298 Liberian refugees arrived home on Monday morning aboard a chartered passenger-cargo vessel. The Gambia-registered Brenda Corlett docked in Monrovia after settling sail from the Ghanaian port of Tema last Thursday.

Liberian Vice-President Joseph Boakai and Minister of Internal Affairs Ambulai Johnson attended a colourful welcoming ceremony. The returnees went through medical screening and proceeded to a transit centre to receive their reintegration packages.

These include food rations for four months, blankets, sleeping mats, cooking utensils, sanitary towels for women, buckets, lanterns, mosquito nets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans and agricultural tools. They will also be given opportunities for skills training.

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 arrival of the 298 Liberians brings the number of people repatriated with UNHCR assistance from Ghana to some 3,800. Others, mainly those with special needs, have gone home by air.

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 Monrovia, Liberia