Brussels, 19 July 2005 - The European Commission is to support the return of more than 400 000 refugees and displaced persons to their places of origin in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two new decisions allocate €4.7 million towards facilitating the repatriation and resettlement of these populations. The grants are to be channelled through ECHO, the Commission's humanitarian aid service, which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel.
Violent offensives by rebel groups in Liberia resulted in more than 170 000 Liberians being displaced inside their country, and a further 200 000 nationals fleeing to neighbouring countries (Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea). Steady improvements in the situation inside the country mean that these populations can now return to their region of origin. A new €2.7 million grant will enable the Commission's humanitarian partners to support the return and resettlement of some 370 000 Liberians in their region of origin. The decision covers a variety of different sectors of activity, including the protection of vulnerable people, transport, distribution of food and non-food items, access to water, healthcare and sanitation, the distribution of tools and seeds, and support for the local authorities who will welcome these returning populations.
Fighting between the government forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and rebel forces drove some 60 000 Congolese to seek shelter in the Republic of the Congo. The cessation of hostilities in DRC has led the Commission to donate an extra €2 million to support the repatriation and resettlement of these Congolese refugees. The grant is intended to provide support for the voluntary repatriation of 24 000 refugees, and help create reception centres to prepare refugees for their return, provide transport for people, their belongings and small livestock, distribute essential products and food for three months, rehabilitate social services in the resettlement areas, and assist resettlement through revenue-generating activities and the provision of home-repair kits.
In addition to this aid to the returning populations, the Commission continues to coordinate the activities of the various actors involved: humanitarian organisations, donors, local authorities and civil society.
Since 2003, the Commission has donated €45 million in humanitarian aid activities to Liberia, and €128 million towards the Congo crisis.
For more information, see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/echo/field/index_en.htm