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High Commissioner arrives in Liberia

Briefing notes

High Commissioner arrives in Liberia

4 May 2004

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers arrived yesterday in Monrovia, Liberia, on the final stop of his three-nation tour of West Africa. His Liberia visit is focusing on the return and reintegration of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other displaced populations in the country.

In the afternoon, Mr. Lubbers met with Mr. Jacques Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia. The High Commissioner said he was pleased at the level of cooperation between UNHCR and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), as well as with Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York, in the pursuit of common goals. These include refugee and displacement issues, returnee security, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The High Commissioner stressed that with the deployment of UNMIL troops, access to populations in need of help is now possible all over the country.

This year, UNHCR expects that up to 100,000 Liberian refugees (out of a total of 320,000 in West African countries) will return from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Of this number, many are expected to spontaneously repatriate. UNHCR will organise transport, provide reintegration packages and community-based assistance for the rehabilitation of essential services. In addition, we also plan to assist some 300,000 internally displaced people to return to their counties devastated by the war. Already, more than 6,000 Liberian refugees have crossed into Liberia this year and are staying in camps near Monrovia, the total number of spontaneous returnees across the country being probably much higher.

Over the weekend, the High Commissioner was in Guinea, where he discussed the upcoming termination of repatriation and assistance for Sierra Leonean refugees in the country and prospects for the local integration of the remaining refugees. He also reviewed environmental rehabilitation activities for areas affected by the long-term presence of refugees and visited centres for vocational training and activities against sexual and gender-based violence. He called for more reconstruction investment to flow into countries of return, including Sierra Leone, which he visited last week, and Liberia.

Today in Liberia, Mr. Lubbers will travel to the field to see first-hand the reception and assistance for returnees. He will also visit some of the IDP camps, as well as a demobilisation and cantonment site, where he will be briefed on the ongoing demobilisation and disarmament process by Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande, UNMIL Force Commander.

In the evening, Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to meet with Mr. Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia.