UN Security Council diplomats visit Ivorian refugees in Liberia

News Stories, 23 May 2012

© UNHCR/S.Momodu
United States Ambassador Susan Rice (in white top and sunglasses on her head) talks with Ivorian refugee women in the PTP camp.

PTP REFUGEE CAMP, Liberia, May 23 (UNHCR) Ambassadors from all 15 members of the UN Security Council have paid an unprecedented visit to a refugee camp in Liberia as part of a mission to assess the situation in the region about one year after the end of a political crisis in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.

The 15 envoys were among a 32-member UN delegation from New York to tour the PTP Refugee Camp in Grand Gedeh county, south-east Liberia on Tuesday. The facility was opened last September on the site of the former Prime Timber Production (PTP) company. The largest of the camps for Ivorians remaining in Liberia, it hosts more than 7,600 refugees.

The Security Council officials are on a swing through three West African nations that are emerging from war and conflict in recent years. They flew to Liberia from Guiglo in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.

"We spoke with Ivorian citizens who shared their experiences with us as they go through a transition," the United States' Ambassador Susan Rice told refugees at the PTP camp. "We would like to understand better from you what conditions have to be present so you would feel comfortable to return home," she said, while noting that people in Côte d'Ivoire had told them that while security concerns lingered, the situation was better than a year ago.

Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco, delegation co-leader with Rice, expressed the hope that security would continue to improve in Côte d'Ivoire so that all Ivorian refugees can return home.

Some 220,000 Ivorians fled to Liberia after fighting broke out between the supporters of the rival candidates in the November 2010 presidential election. The violence ended in April last year, when forces loyal to election winner Alassane Ouattara captured Abidjan. But some 67,000 remain in Liberia as UNHCR continues to help facilitate return to safe areas.


Refugee leaders told the Security Council delegation members that their areas of return remained insecure, claiming that armed gangs roamed the area and frequently took the law into their own hands. Some claimed their cocoa plantations were being illegally occupied and this made it difficult to return, but all acknowledged the need for reconciliation.

Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's representative in Liberia, told the Security Council members about the important work the refugee agency does in the seven refugee camps for Ivorians in Liberia. He noted that UNHCR had helped thousands return home over the past year, while many others have gone back spontaneously.

Meanwhile, the Security Council members noted with satisfaction that many Liberians have returned home in the past few months ahead of the invocation of the so-called cessation clause at the end of June. The clause, which effectively ends refugee status for Liberians, is recognition that the conditions that forced people to flee Liberia no longer exist after nearly nine years of peace. The delegates are currently back in Côte d'Ivoire and will fly to Sierra Leone today for the final leg of their tour.

By Sulaiman Momodu in PTP Refugee Camp, Liberia




UNHCR country pages


UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

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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