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




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

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Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

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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

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