News Stories, 27 September 2007
WLI, Ghana, September 27 (UNHCR) – The voluntary repatriation of Togolese refugees from Ghana has got under way with a first group of 176 men, women and children people heading home by road convoy with the help of the UN refugee agency.
The returnees, including 98 children and teenagers, are among a group of 1,700 Togolese refugees in eastern Ghana's Volta region who have registered to take advantage of easing tensions and return home. UNHCR is giving priority to those who want to be back in time for Togo's parliamentary election on October 14.
"Today marks a new beginning. While Togo is still in the process of political reform, these 176 Togolese refugees have decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to return to their home country in the context of the voluntary repatriation exercise organized by UNHCR and the Ghana Refugee Board," Aida Haile Mariam, UNHCR chief in Ghana, said at Wednesday's departure ceremony.
The returnees will travel to Danyi prefecture in Togo's Plateau region before heading on to their home villages or towns. UNHCR and its partners will provide a return package including a cash grant equivalent to about US$120 per adult and US$60 per child as well as clothing, mosquito nets, mats, buckets, soap, hygiene kits and food rations for two months.
They seemed happy to be going back. Akoko, aged 32, said he would go back to fight for freedom and democracy while mother of two, Ametipe, planned to set up a small business. While they were among the first group of refugees to return with UNHCR assistance, thousands more have already returned under their own steam.
Tens of thousands of Togolese fled to neighbouring Ghana and Benin when violence erupted after the electoral confirmation in April 2005 of the installation of the late Gnassingbé Eyadema's son, Faure, as president of Togo.
In Ghana, most found refuge with host communities in the Volta Region. Other Togolese refugees are largely urban and arrived in Ghana in the 1990s.
Ghana hosts some 42,400 refugees from various countries, including about 8,500 from Togo. UNHCR is providing assistance to some 13,300 remaining Togolese refugees in Ghana and Benin.
By Needah Jehu-Hoyah in Accra, Ghana