Hundreds Of Liberians Returning As UNHCR Deadline Nears

Peter Kahler, PANA Correspondent
MONROVIA, Liberia (PANA) - Over 1,600 Liberians refugees began returning home Thursday by land from the Ivorian town of Danane as the 31 December deadline for organised voluntary repatriation set by the UNHCR draws nearer.

The agency months ago set the deadline for voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees in the west African sub-region owing to the level of security obtaining in the country two years after democratic elections.

The returnees from Danane will travel in convoys 9, 14 and 16 December, James Yanquoi, officer in charge of the government-run refugee repatriation and resettlement agency, said.

He said the returnees, comprising mainly families, will settle in their pre-war localities.

Yanquoi added that they have already been provided resettlement packages, including tarpaulin, mats, axes, hoes, cutlasses and cooking utensils.

Some 331 refugees are expected home from neighbouring Sierra Leone by air 10, 11 and 12 December.

Yanquoi said Liberians in asylum countries who fail to utilise the voluntary repatriation before the deadline would have to regularise their status by seeking citizenship or residence permit.

Meanwhile, about 15,000 internally displaced persons sheltering in some 35 camps in and around Monrovia have been given a similar deadline to vacate and return home.

Yanquoi said this decision was prompted by suspension of relief aid to them from donor agencies.

Each family from the camps would receive a kit comprising one hammer, an axe, tarpaulin sheet, two cutlasses and one kilo of nails.

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