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Govt. to close Ivorian refugee camps

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The Government of Liberia, through its Refugee Agency, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), has announced the decommissioning of the Ziah and Dougee refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County. These are two of seven refugee camps occupied by Ivorian refugees.

The Executive Director of the LRRRC, Cllr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative, Mr. Cosmas Chanda, informed Ivorian refugees, local authorities and partners during a four-day tour of Grand Gedeh and Nimba counties that the camps will be closed by 30 September 2012.

Additionally UNHCR and LRRRC will facilitate the repatriation and relocation of refugees currently hosted in 15 villages in Nimba County as humanitarian assistance in these relocation villages will also cease by the end of September.

The decision to close and consolidate the camps was prompted by the decreasing number of Ivorian refugees in the country as a result of voluntary repatriation to Côte d’Ivoire and based on preliminary results of ongoing biometric registration of Ivorian refugees in the country.

Ziah and Dougee camps were established during the Ivorian refugee influx more than a year ago and currently host a population of about 1,800 and 5,500 refugees respectively. At the peak of the refugee influx, more than 200,000 Ivorians crossed over into Liberia. This number has now reduced to just under 69,000 as many refugees have returned home, either on their own or through UNHCR and LRRRC facilitated voluntary repatriation.

“In view of the high cost of running a camp and our desire to provide better services such as health, education, shelter, water and sanitation, the Government of Liberia and the UNHCR will be relocating you to the PTP camp,” Cllr. Barnes informed the refugees, who have generally welcomed the decision. The PTP camp, where the refugees will be relocating is a former Prime Timber Production site about 15 km from Zwedru.

Representative Chanda expressed profound gratitude and appreciation to the Government and people of Liberia for hosting refugees and also informed local authorities that UNHCR will be funding projects in host communities as a sign of appreciation for their assistance to the refugees.

Upon their return to Monrovia, the heads of the two refugee bodies briefed Minister of Internal Affairs Hon. Blamoh Nelson in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for LRRRC.

Cllr. Barnes and Representative Chanda also updated the Minister on the end of refugee status for Liberians come 1 July this year. Minister Nelson lauded UNHCR and LRRRC for their humanitarian services and committed to render assistance to returnees within the capacity of his ministry.