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Togolese refugees start going home from Ghana with UNHCR help

News Stories, 27 September 2007

© UNHCR/A.Sunghay
The return convoy makes its way toward Togo.

WLI, Ghana, September 27 (UNHCR) The voluntary repatriation of Togolese refugees from Ghana has got under way with a first group of 176 men, women and children people heading home by road convoy with the help of the UN refugee agency.

The returnees, including 98 children and teenagers, are among a group of 1,700 Togolese refugees in eastern Ghana's Volta region who have registered to take advantage of easing tensions and return home. UNHCR is giving priority to those who want to be back in time for Togo's parliamentary election on October 14.

"Today marks a new beginning. While Togo is still in the process of political reform, these 176 Togolese refugees have decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to return to their home country in the context of the voluntary repatriation exercise organized by UNHCR and the Ghana Refugee Board," Aida Haile Mariam, UNHCR chief in Ghana, said at Wednesday's departure ceremony.

The returnees will travel to Danyi prefecture in Togo's Plateau region before heading on to their home villages or towns. UNHCR and its partners will provide a return package including a cash grant equivalent to about US$120 per adult and US$60 per child as well as clothing, mosquito nets, mats, buckets, soap, hygiene kits and food rations for two months.

They seemed happy to be going back. Akoko, aged 32, said he would go back to fight for freedom and democracy while mother of two, Ametipe, planned to set up a small business. While they were among the first group of refugees to return with UNHCR assistance, thousands more have already returned under their own steam.

Tens of thousands of Togolese fled to neighbouring Ghana and Benin when violence erupted after the electoral confirmation in April 2005 of the installation of the late Gnassingbé Eyadema's son, Faure, as president of Togo.

In Ghana, most found refuge with host communities in the Volta Region. Other Togolese refugees are largely urban and arrived in Ghana in the 1990s.

Ghana hosts some 42,400 refugees from various countries, including about 8,500 from Togo. UNHCR is providing assistance to some 13,300 remaining Togolese refugees in Ghana and Benin.

By Needah Jehu-Hoyah in Accra, Ghana

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UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

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

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More than 30,000 people fled Togo to seek security in neighbouring countries when violence erupted with the announcement of election results on April 26, 2005. The outflow slowed in the ensuing weeks, but Benin and Ghana continue to register daily arrivals.

More than half of the refugees arrived in Benin, many through the main crossing point at Hilakondji. The majority stayed with friends and host families, while several thousand were moved from a church compound near Hilakondji to Come and Lokossa camps. More land is being cleared at Lokossa to accommodate more of the new arrivals. UNHCR and its partners are providing food and relief items and building sanitation facilities.

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