Liberia: Repatriation operation picking up pace
The Liberian repatriation operation is picking up pace, with the first returns arriving back from Côte d'Ivoire yesterday and the start of the repatriation by sea from Ghana set for tomorrow.
On Monday, Côte d'Ivoire joined in the regional repatriation movement for the first time since it began last October, flying home 47 Liberian refugees from Abidjan to Monrovia. The group is part of the some 5,000 Liberian refugees settled in Abidjan who say that with the heightened crisis in Côte d'Ivoire they fear for their safety and wish to return to Liberia.
In the refugee hosting zones in western Côte d'Ivoire, another 500 Liberian refugees have asked UNHCR to help them return for the same reasons. However, the vast majority of Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire are originally from Grand Gedeh, Maryland and Nimba counties, which are yet to be declared safe, preventing UNHCR from assisting them home at the moment.
In Ghana, the ship MV Cerano, chartered by the International Organization for Migration, is scheduled to depart from Tema, the country's main port, on Wednesday on a three-and-a-half-day voyage to Monrovia, taking 350 Liberian refugees and their luggage back home.
The repatriating refugees will depart from the Buduburam refugee settlement some 35 km from Accra, where some of them had been staying for over 10 years. Many of them will be carrying livestock, personal effects, locally made commercial bread ovens and foodstuffs such as yams and bags of peanuts.
UNHCR has helped some 4,300 Liberian refugees return home since the repatriation started on 1 October by land, air and shortly sea. Over the next three years we expect some 340,000 Liberian refugees across West Africa to return home, including 150,000 in 2005.