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Refugee camp closed in Liberia as return to Côte d'Ivoire gathers momentum

News Stories, 25 March 2014

© UNHCR/S.Momodu
The camp assets, including the solid school buildings and water pumps, were handed over to the local community on the closure of the camp.

SOLO REUGEE CAMP, Liberia, March 25 (UNHCR) The Liberian government, with the help of UNHCR, closed Solo refugee camp in the south-east of the country as the number of Ivorians returning home picked up pace in the first months of this year.

Solo was one of six refugee camps established during the crisis that followed the disputed presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire in late 2010, forcing some 220,000 Ivorians to flee to Liberia. Most have returned either with UNHCR's assistance or by their own means, and Solo on Friday became the third camp to be closed since 2012.

The Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission and UNHCR decided to close Solo in an effort to cut costs and to provide better protection and assistance to the remaining 46,000 Ivorian refugees at a time of continuing repatriation.

UNHCR is well on course to meet its repatriation target of 16,000 Ivorian refugees for this year, with 7,834 returns as of Friday. Convoys planned for the rest of this month, mainly to locations in western Côte d'Ivoire, could bring the total repatriated in the first quarter to more than 9,000.

This is more than half the year's target and compares to some 8,000 repatriated in total in 2012 and 2013. The stepped up pace of repatriation is a clear sign of increased confidence in the security, political and economic situation back home.

"The closure of Solo camp is part of the joint strategy by the government of Liberia and UNHCR to consolidate refugee camps and provide targeted interventions especially in an environment where resources are scarce," UNHCR Representative Khassim Diagne said at the closing ceremony of the 85-acre camp.

The camp assets will be used by the local population. They included buildings that once housed a primary school, a clinic, offices, a police station and barracks, a warehouse and distribution halls.

Solo Refugee Camp was established in April 2011. At its peak, the camp hosted about 6,000 Ivorian refugees. About half of them voluntarily repatriated to Côte d'Ivoire while others relocated to the PTP Refugee Camp, which is the largest refugee camp in Liberia, hosting more than 15,000 Ivorian refugees. The other two camps are at Bahn and Little Wlebo, both in the east.

By Sulaiman Momodu in Solo Refugee Camp, Liberia

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UNHCR country pages

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

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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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.