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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




UNHCR country pages

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

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

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.