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Japan gives UNHCR US$2.5 million for repatriation and reintegration of Liberian refugees

News Stories, 20 March 2007

© UNHCR/S.Brownell
Japanese Ambassador Masamichi Ishikawa and UNHCR Representative Mengesha Kebede sign documents relating to the grant during a ceremony in Monrovia.

MONROVIA, Liberia, March 20 (UNHCR) The government of Japan has donated US$2.5 million dollars to UNHCR for the agency's programmes aimed at ensuring the sustainable return of Liberian refugees from neighbouring Guinea.

Japanese Ambassador Masamichi Ishikawa and UNHCR Representative Mengesha Kebede signed documents on the grant during a ceremony yesterday in Monrovia. The money will be used to repatriate refugees by road from Guinea and to help build or rehabilitate facilities and services in areas of high return.

"I strongly believe that Liberia is on the right track towards consolidation of peace and future prosperity. It is in this light, that my government is extending this donation to enable UNHCR to carry out its reintegration programme effectively," Ishikawa said.

The Japanese envoy said his country's contribution would help cover the construction of health facilities, shelters and educational facilities in Liberia as well as support the operations of non-governmental organisations involved in protection, monitoring and coordination of refuge-related activities. Some US$500,000 would be used to transport refugees back home from Guinea.

It is essential that basic services and infrastructure be put in place in war-battered Liberia if returnees are to be successfully reintegrated after years in exile. UNHCR and is implementing partners have provided many new facilities to make life easier for the returnees and for the receiving communities.

Since October 2004, UNHCR has repatriated more than 90,000 Liberian refugees over half of them from Guinea. The refugee agency has also helped more than 300,000 internally displaced Liberians return home.

"UNHCR involvement in the repatriation process is time limited, but we have a commitment to the people that have come back home all over Liberia to ensure the sustainability of return," said UNHCR's Kebede, while thanking Japan for its continuing support.

The UN refugee agency is seeking US$32.3 million from donors this year for its regular Liberia programmes.

By Sarah F. Brownell in Monrovia, Liberia




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2006 Nansen Refugee Award

All photos courtesy of Fuji Optical Co. Ltd.

The UN refugee agency has named Japanese optometrist Dr. Akio Kanai as the winner of the 2006 Nansen Refugee Award. Dr. Kanai has worked for more than two decades to improve the quality of life of over 100,000 uprooted people around the world by testing their eyes and providing them with spectacles.

Dr. Kanai, himself forcibly displaced from the northern Pacific island of Sakhalin at the end of World War Two, started his humanitarian work in 1983 in Thailand with Indochinese refugees. In 1984, he first worked with UNHCR and has conducted more than 24 missions to help uprooted people in Nepal, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Armenia. He has donated optometry equipment and more than 108,200 pairs of spectacles, made cash grants and trained local medical staff.

Dr Kanai, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Fuji Optical, has also rallied his family and staff to participate in Fuji Optical's Vision Aid missions. Some 70 employees have taken part, working in refugee camps during their holidays.

2006 Nansen Refugee Award

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in 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

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.