Ghana: deportation to Liberia

Briefing Notes, 25 March 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 March 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Following a deportation on Sunday 23 March of 16 Liberians by the Ghanaian authorities 13 of them registered with UNHCR as refugees we have urged Ghana to cease any further forcible removals.

The deportation followed a five-week sit-in demonstration by a group of Liberians which started last month on 19 February at the Buduburam refugee settlement, some 35 km west of the country's capital city Accra. Refugees were demanding to be resettled to third countries or, if they were to return to Liberia, for the return grant, currently $100, to be increased to $1,000. Despite our extensive efforts to promote dialogue and convince the demonstrators to express themselves within the confines of Ghanaian law, the group engaged in increasingly threatening and disruptive action.

After having shown restraint for over a month, the Ghanaian authorities arrested some 630 demonstrators on March 17. The group was taken to a youth training facility at Kordiabe in the east of the country, where they were visited and assisted by UNHCR. On the evening of 21 March 2008, UNHCR negotiated the release of 90 of the most vulnerable of the group, including separated children and pregnant women.

However, the following day on March 22, we were informed of the arrest of some 70 Liberians from Buduburam. We immediately requested the authorities to be granted access to the group. This request was still pending when we learned that 16 people from the group had been deported to Liberia early in the morning on March 23. Thirteen of them 10 men and 3 women were refugees.

We regret the deportation of this group of refugees and hope that our ongoing negotiations with the Ghanaian authorities will help resolve the situation of the refugees still in detention.

The demonstration stopped on Monday. We are continuing to try and persuade the refugee community to use existing channels to address their issues as well as reminding them of their obligation to obey the laws and regulations of their country of asylum.

There are 26,967 Liberians officially registered as refugees in Ghana most live in Buduburam refugee camp. From October 2004 to June 2007 UNHCR ran a major repatriation programme for Liberian refugees who has fled to various West African countries during a brutal civil war. Some 105,000 Liberian refugees returned home under the programme.




UNHCR country pages

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: 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

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.