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Funding for repatriation in Africa

Briefing notes

Funding for repatriation in Africa

16 April 2004

One month after the Africa Dialogue in Geneva, where hopes were raised about good prospects for repatriation in nine African countries, our planned operations in at least two of these countries are already affected by a lack of funding. The paradox here is that donors are always anxious to see these solutions get off the ground, but we can't do that without first buying trucks, building transit centres, digging water wells, reconstructing schools and all of the other preparatory work that must be done months before the arrival of the first returnees.

UNHCR has appealed for $8.8 million for preparatory activities for voluntary repatriation and reintegration of Sudanese refugees. We have so far received about $3 million. Large expenses have already been incurred by the pre-positioning of domestic items, and deployment of an emergency team, light vehicles and telecom equipment.

In Liberia, spontaneous returnees have been arriving by the thousands and have become stranded in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Monrovia, because their areas of return are not yet deemed safe for resettlement. The returnees in the IDP camps live in miserable conditions as food, water and medical facilities are insufficient for new arrivals. We need funding, even though we have embarked with the Liberian government and returnee representatives on a sensitisation mission in countries of asylum to inform Liberian refugees that it is still too soon to return. There are some 300,000 Liberians outside their country.

UNHCR had appealed for some $39.2 million for its programme in Liberia this year. So far only $3 million has been received. Our shortfall today stands at $36.2 million. With the ongoing deployment of UNMIL troops and the resumption this week of the disarmament and demobilisation campaign in Liberia, it is clear that optimism runs high among Liberian refugees abroad, and it is likely that we will continue to see groups of spontaneous returnees flocking in from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ghana.

QUESTION: In addition to Liberia and Sudan, UNHCR cited seven other countries as current or possible repatriation programmes. What is the budget situation in those other seven countries?

Liberia and Sudan face the most crucial funding situations. They both have issued supplementary appeals in preparation for expected large-scale repatriation operations. Six other country operations are ongoing and funded under UNHCR's regular annual budget. The Democratic Republic of the Congo's pending supplementary appeal will be released soon.