UNHCR resumes voluntary returns of Liberians by sea
UNHCR has resumed this week the repatriation of Liberian refugees by sea. The Panama-registered Kiriaki 1 docked on Wednesday evening in Monrovia port, bringing back 214 Liberian refugees from Nigeria and Ghana.
This was the first repatriation by sea since October 2006. A five-month long pause was caused by the breakdown of another chartered ship and subsequent difficulties in identifying an alternative seaworthy vessel. UNHCR also charters commercial flights to repatriate Liberian refugees from Nigeria and Ghana in addition to the ongoing repatriation by road from countries neighbouring Liberia.
We expect to repatriate some 60,000 refugees from the camps in the region before the end of the organised repatriation, scheduled for the end of June this year.
To date, UNHCR has assisted over 94,000 Liberian refugees to return home. We anticipate that, by early May, the number of returns assisted by UNHCR since the start of organised voluntary repatriation in October 2004 would reach the 100,000 mark.
The Kiriaki 1 sailed from Nigeria on 22 March with 167 Liberian refugees on board. It made a stopover in Ghana at Tema Sea Port, picking up another 47 refugees and continued to Monrovia on 24 March. Upon arrival, all returnees received assistance packages, including domestic items, a four-month food ration and a transport allowance to their final destination.
The sea repatriation movement is organized in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Governments of Ghana and Nigeria. With the end of the large-scale organized repatriation in sight, it is imperative to ensure that Liberian refugees wishing to return home have the opportunity to do so. With the cut-off date just months away many are turning up to register for repatriation.
There are still some 104,000 Liberian refugees in West Africa. More than 36,000 are in Ghana, 26,000 in Côte d'Ivoire, 20,000 in Sierra Leone, 16,000 in Guinea, 5,000 in Nigeria, and the rest are scattered in other countries of the region.