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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

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Liberia: Return, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

On July 21, 2004, the final UNHCR convoy from Liberia crossed over the Mano River bridge into Sierra Leone with 286 returnees. This convoy included the last of some 280,000 refugees returning home after Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2000. Overall, since repatriation began in 2001, UNHCR has helped some 178,000 refugees return home, with a further 92,000 returning spontaneously, without transport assistance from UNHCR.

UNHCR provided returnees with food rations and various non-food items, including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and agricultural tools in order to help them establish their new lives in communities of origin. To promote integration of newly arrived returnees, UNHCR has implemented some 1,000 community empowerment projects nationwide. Programmes include the building and rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, as well as micro-credit schemes and skills training.

UNHCR and its partners, alongside the UN country team and the government, will continue to assist the reintegration of returnees through the end of 2005.

Sierra Leone: Last Return Convoy from Liberia

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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.
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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.
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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.