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Liberia: returnee population registration and verification begins

Briefing notes

Liberia: returnee population registration and verification begins

18 May 2004

We have started a verification exercise to register Liberian returnees from Sierra Leone. The exercise is taking place in two returnee camps, Perry Town and Siegbeh, both located in Montserrado County, near Monrovia. These areas are home to over 7,000 returnees from Sierra Leone. So far 4,500 have been registered.

The exercise involves verification of the registration document (ration card and photograph) obtained by the Liberians while they lived as refugees in Sierra Leone. It also entails an in-depth interview by UNHCR field and protection staff with each individual and head of household. This includes questions on family composition, duration of stay in country of asylum, reason for returning and intended destination in Liberia. Returnees also receive information on security risks in the intended province of return.

Apart from verifying the voluntary nature of repatriation the rationale behind verification is to make sure that only genuine returnees benefit from UNHCR assistance.

In addition, this exercise gives the humanitarian agencies a chance to update their statistics and find out specific characteristics of the returnee population. The registration form specifies age, gender, status and other data like medical condition and place of origin that are crucial to ensuring appropriate assistance is given.

Registration will be continuing on a regular basis and will allow UNHCR to keep track of the flow of returnees and prevent fraud.

Cross-questioning of at least one adult family member follows the general interview. When doubt arises due to contradictions in the answers a more detailed interview is undertaken.

Although the country is not considered totally secure, returnees are not prevented from returning to Liberia. Spontaneous returnees continue to trickle in across various borders and UNHCR helps with the transportation of those arriving from Sierra Leone through Bo Waterside. To date, the total figure of returnees in Liberia is estimated to be above the 17,000 from various countries of asylum including Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Ghana. Out of these, some 7,000, having returned from Sierra Leone, are being assisted in Perry Town and Siegbeh, pending an improvement in their area of origin which will allow them to return home.

The registration exercise which started earlier this month is expected to be completed by May 23. It gives returnees right to a reintegration package composed of various domestic items, including blankets, mats, jerry cans, soap, and plastic sheeting, as well as sanitary kits for women.

The verification is currently limited to the area near Monrovia but it will be expanded to the east and the north of the country to include returnees from Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea, once security has improved and UNHCR has established presence there.