The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says the governments of Liberia and Ivory Coast and the UN refugee agency have assisted 16,000 Ivorian refugees to return home within nearly five months since the resumption of a voluntary repatriation process.
According to a UNHCR release issued in Monday, the repatriation follows a high-level mission meeting organized by the Ivorian Government from May 3 to 6 in Liberia led by the Minister of Solidarity, Social Cohesion and Compensation of victims, Mariatou Kone, to encourage the refugees to return home by taking advantage of the UNHCR voluntary repatriation convoys already in place. Kone was accompanied by other high-ranking specialists from relevant ministries such as the ministries of Justice, Education, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior as well as some members of parliament and the Ivorian Embassy in Liberia. While in Liberia, the mission paid a courtesy visit to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Justice and State and also held a meeting with Ivorian refugees residing in Monrovia. These were followed by a three-day visit to the Bahn Refugee Camp in Saclepea, Nimba County, the PTP Refugee Camp in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County and Little Wlebo in Harper, Maryland County. The Ivorian delegation was accompanied by the Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Cllr. Abla Williams and UNHCR Representative and Deputy Representative to Liberia and Ivory Coast, Ndeye Ndour and Aissatou Dieng Ndiaye respectively. Speaking to the refugees during her visit to the three camps on behalf of President Alassane Ouattara, Ms. Kone offered apologies to them for the difficult situation they faced during the war and assured them that peace and security have been restored, urging them to return home to be a part of the process of consolidating peace and social cohesion. Speaking on behalf of the Government of Liberia, LRRRC Executive Director Williams welcomed the Ivorian delegation to Liberia and requested that additional “Come and Tell” missions take place to further encourage refugees to return and restore trust in their country. She noted that the Government of Liberia is committed to assisting the refugees to return to their native land and urged them to take advantage of and benefit from the repatriation process. In response, the chairperson for the refugees from the camps expressed their gratitude to the Government of Liberia, the host communities and UNHCR for the assistance they received while seeking refuge in Liberia. The chairperson highlighted key concerns to be addressed in Cote d’Ivoire in the context of voluntary repatriation, including security, education, healthcare for handicaps or persons disabled during the war, land tenure and better livelihood for orphans, women and young adults upon their return.