Refugees in Liberia receive ID cards

News Stories, 26 April 2005

© UNHCR/A.Hopkins
Sierra Leonean refugees receiving their identity cards in Samukai Town refugee camp near Monrovia.

MONROVIA, Liberia, April 26 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has started issuing identity cards to refugees around Monrovia in a joint effort with the Liberian government to enhance the protection of refugees in the country.

The ID card distribution started over the weekend and is mainly aimed at Sierra Leonean refugees who remain in camps near the Liberian capital. Other recipients include urban refugees of different nationalities who had undergone the registration process during the first phase of the profiling exercise that started earlier this month.

"Now I feel much safer with my ID card in my hands, as we have faced much embarrassment being unable to produce our IDs upon request," said Sierra Leonean refugee Kenyei Swaray. "This ID card shows that the Liberian government is aware of our presence and that UNHCR will ensure that we receive the protection we deserve."

Swaray and her two children were among the 280 Sierra Leonean refugees at Samukai Town refugee camp to receive the new identity cards printed and signed by UNHCR and the government of Liberia. The rest of the 2,715 Sierra Leonean refugees living in three refugee camps near Monrovia will receive their ID cards in the coming weeks.

UNHCR helped some 40,000 Sierra Leonean refugees to return home from Liberia before it ended its repatriation operation to Sierra Leone in the middle of last year. For those who choose to remain in Liberia for a variety of reasons, the agency is providing them with assistance this year to integrate locally. The material assistance should be phased out by the end of the year, leaving the Sierra Leonean refugees with protection and legal assistance.

Meanwhile, the profiling exercise is continuing in Liberia's south and east. The registration has been completed of Ivorian refugees at Saclepea refugee camp in Nimba county as well as in Little Weebo and Harper in Maryland county. The UNHCR team also plans to register Ivorian refugees living in border communities in south-eastern Liberia.

The registration and profiling exercise is part of UNHCR's efforts to develop a common database using a new system called ProGres. It seeks to document refugees, verifying and compiling extensive biographical data and photographs into a single database. The compiled data makes it easier for UNHCR staff to conduct refugee status determination, provide assistance and protection, process resettlement cases and facilitate voluntary repatriation and local integration.

By Francesca Fontanini and Sarah Brownell
UNHCR Liberia