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Liberian town sets aside land for local integration of Sierra Leoneans

News Stories, 20 August 2008

© UNHCR/B.Heger
Refugees from Sierra Leone at a camp near Monrovia. Most refugees have gone home, but UNHCR is helping the government to provide shelter for some 3,500 Sierra Leoneans who wanted to remain in the country.

MONROVIA, Liberia, August 20 (UNHCR) A town in northern Liberia has set aside land for the construction of 60 houses for Sierra Leonean refugees, giving a boost to efforts aimed at integrating some 3,500 people who want to remain in the country.

The people of Memeh, which is located near the national capital of Monrovia, agreed to hand over 28 acres of land for the housing under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on Monday with the state-run Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC).

The 60 houses to be built on the land will accommodate 48 refugee families and 12 vulnerable Liberian families in the area, or about 300 people.

Under Monday's MOU, the UN refugee agency and the LRRRC will support agriculture-related activities, expand the local primary school and help establish a health centre as well as water and sanitation projects. Project contractors will hire people locally.

UNHCR Representative in Liberia Renata Dubini thanked the people of Memeh for providing the land and supporting the local integration process. "We remain committed to mobilizing additional funds in 2009 to meet the terms of the MOU," she said.

LRRRC Executive Director Wheatonia Dixon Barnes stressed that the government was committed to honouring its obligations under the MOU.

The construction of the houses is part of plans to provide permanent accommodation for more than 3,500 Sierra Leonean refugees who have opted for local integration since the end of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme.

A first batch of 32 houses has been rehabilitated in nearby Bensonville for 16 refugee families and 16 vulnerable local families. These families, comprising some 160 people, will soon occupy their new homes.

During the height of the conflict in Sierra Leone as many as 2 million of the country's 6 million people were displaced, with some 490,000 fleeing to Liberia and Guinea. Under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation operation from September 2000 to July 2004, more than 179,000 Sierra Leonean refugees returned home and many others returned by their own means.

Last June, UNHCR announced that as of the end of this year Sierra Leoneans who fled their country in the 1990s will no longer be considered refugees since the root causes of the refugee problem in Sierra Leone no longer exist. The decision was based on fundamental and positive durable changes in Sierra Leone since a peace agreement was declared in January 2002.

By Tom Winston Monboe in Monrovia, Liberia




UNHCR country pages

Local Integration

Integration of refugees in the host community allows recipients to live in dignity and peace.

Integration Initiatives: Supporting Next Steps

An inventory of opportunities and needs in the integration of resettled refugees

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

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