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Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire Applaud Ivorian Refugees’ Repatriation, Discuss Challenges

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ABIDJAN, MONDAY, 21 MAY, 2012: The Governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire have reaffirmed their commitment to work together to create the conditions favourable to the ongoing voluntary repatriation of thousands of Ivorian refugees from Liberia.

The Tripartite Commission for Voluntary Repatriation of Ivorian refugees, which brings together the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), met in Abidjan on Friday, 18 May. The high level meeting at the Ivorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was convened to review the Tripartite Agreement signed between the parties last August. The Agreement sets out the framework for voluntary repatriation.

More than 160,000 Ivorian have returned to Côte d’Ivoire after taking refuge in Liberia last year. Côte d’Ivoire Minister of Ex-Combatants and Victims of War, Mr. Mathieu Babaud Darret, who represented the Foreign Ministry, noted with satisfaction the establishment of an efficient system for facilitated voluntary repatriation. His words were echoed by Liberia’s Minister of Internal Affairs of Liberia, Hon. Blamoh Nelson.

Both ministers commended the efforts of UNHCR in providing transportation to over 4,300 Ivorian refugees returning to Côte d’Ivoire in the first four months of this year. UNHCR stressed that continuous improvements in security conditions are a determining factor for many refugees considering voluntary repatriation. The Commission endorsed the recommendation of the Technical Working Group to prioritize Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) activities in return areas. Building the capacity of the police and the gendarmerie in areas where the security situation remains fragile was also recommended.

Other recommendations centered on administrative border procedures, assistance to returnees, and social and economic reintegration of returnees. In the area of logistics, it was agreed to prioritize rehabilitation of roads and bridges, as well as to explore the possibility to open an international air route between refugee hosting areas in Liberia and return zones in Cote d’Ivoire without the need to pass through Monrovia or Abidjan.

The Commission was co-chaired by Minister Darret of Côte d’Ivoire, Minister Nelson of Liberia, the Interim Representative of the UNHCR in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Serge Ruso, and the UNHCR Representative in Liberia, Mr. Cosmas Chanda. The Technical Working Group was co-chaired by the Interim Director of the Service for Aid and Assistance to Refugees and Stateless Persons (SAARA), Mr. Yapi Koffi Evariste, the Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Cllr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes, and by the UNHCR Representatives in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Some 220,000 refugees fled to Liberia in the aftermath of the disputed 2010 presidential run-off election in Côte d’Ivoire. More than half have returned either on their own or through UNHCR assistance. Liberia currently hosts more than 67,300 Ivorian refugees who are mainly staying in the border counties of Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland.