UNHCR helps Guinea ease the local integration of Liberian refugees

News Stories, 16 August 2007

© UNHCR/B.Clarke
A Liberian refugee dries the coffee harvest at her home in Guinea. UNHCR is helping Guinea smooth the way for the local integration of Liberians who cannot or will not go home.

NZEREKORE, Guinea, August 16 (UNHCR) When the UN refugee agency wrapped up its Liberian refugee repatriation programme earlier this year it did not turn its back on an estimated 80,000 people who have stayed behind in West African host countries like Guinea.

More than 350,000 Liberians fled the civil war raging in their country from 1989 to 2003. With the return of peace and democracy, tens of thousands opted to return home. From October 2004, UNHCR helped more than 105,000 Liberians repatriate from countries around the region, while a further 50,000 registered refugees made their own way back.

When the last of the recent large-scale repatriations in West Africa ended on June 30, UNHCR immediately buckled down to the task of finding durable solutions for the more than 23,000 Liberians who remained in Ghana, the 22,000 in Côte d'Ivoire, 14,000 in Guinea, 13,000 in Sierra Leone and 5,000 in Nigeria.

The rest are scattered in other nearby countries. These 80,000 Liberians either could not or would not return to a country where the years of war left 200,000 people dead and 800,000 internally displaced and devastated the economy, infrastructure and basic services.

In Guinea, the UN Refugee Agency is working with the newly established National Commission for the Integration and Monitoring of Refugees to find durable solutions for those who remained behind. They launched an information campaign aimed at sensitizing refugees, the local authorities and the general public to the aim and goals of integration programmes for Liberians.

The campaign has started in the southern Guinea Forestière region, where UNHCR is encouraging some 9,000 of the Liberians to opt for local integration, while advocating tolerance from Guineans and helping build confidence between refugees and the local population. To date, nearly 600 refugees have expressed their firm intention to be integrated in Guinea.

The joint campaign is being carried out through information meetings, seminars and the screening of documentaries in two camps Kouankan 1 and Lainé and surrounding prefectures. The camps are located near the town of Nzérékoré in southern Guinea.

Pierre Jouyep, head of the UNHCR office in Nzérékoré, said the government and the agency hoped to start moving the first group of Liberians to integration sites on October 1. "We do not exclude departures before this date, but that will depend on the number of refugees who express interest in this durable solution," he said.

UNHCR is also working closely with the Guinean government on the consolidation and advancement of national legislation regarding protection of refugees, asylum seekers and those seeking to remain and integrate in this country.

The UNHCR office in Conakry has helped the government draft new refugee and asylum legislation, which, once finalized, will be sent to the National Assembly for debate and endorsement.

Such measures and the local integration projects in Guinea and elsewhere should help bring the Liberian displacement chapter to a successful closure.

By Faya Foko Millimouno in Nzérékoré, Guinea




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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

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

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.