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Liberia: Ivorians gradually going home, returns from Ghana

Briefing notes

Liberia: Ivorians gradually going home, returns from Ghana

30 November 2004

Ivorian refugees sheltering in neighbouring Liberia are gradually making their way back to Côte d'Ivoire as they feel the situation is calmer. Registration of new arrivals stopped last week. More than 10,000 Ivorian arrivals had been registered in Nimba County, in north-eastern Liberia, since the start of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire on November 6. However, at the moment we do not have figures for those returning home as the refugees were dispersed over a wide area and frequently staying with local families.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and WFP [the World Food Programme] agreed this week to start food distribution to refugees in Butuo and 21 other locations along the border. The lack of basic infrastructure is the biggest challenge facing UNHCR and its partner agencies, with helicopters needed to airlift relief items because of the poor state of the roads. UNHCR is working with local Liberian authorities and NGOs to rebuild roads, bridges and clinics.

The situation in Côte d'Ivoire is currently calm and UNHCR international staff have returned after being evacuated earlier this month.

Included in the influx of refugees to Liberia were about 1,000 Liberian refugees. There are some 70,000 Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire, part of the 350,000 Liberians who fled their country's 14-year civil strife and took shelter in other African nations. In October this year, UNHCR began a massive operation for the voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees. As part of this ongoing programme, two flights are leaving Accra, Ghana today bringing home 222 Liberians, joining another 219 which returned on flights yesterday. There will be four more airlifts from Ghana in the coming weeks. In the past two months, more than 2,500 Liberians have repatriated with UNHCR assistance.