Liberia: UNHCR is enhancing efforts in its voluntary repatriation

Monrovia, 6 May 2005 (UNHCR) -- UNHCR Representatives of the main countries of asylum agreed on enhancing efforts to repatriate Liberian refugees from neighboring countries. Many may wish to return in the run-up to elections, they concluded. During a two days meeting hold May 5th / 6th at Mamba Point Hotel, Monrovia, the delegates addressed problems encountered so far in the facilitated voluntary return process and decided on solutions.
"Safety in Liberia has improved and significant organized and spontaneous return is taking place", stated Ms. Zobida Hassim-Ashagrie, Deputy Director of the Africa Bureau at UNHCR' s HQs in Geneva. "This is a sign of growing confidence of the people in the restoration of peace in Liberia", she said. "But we also have some more work to do. The areas of return have to be made accessible and the reintegration interventions must be increased. However this difficult task requires the full engagement of other partners too."

Poor road conditions and the enormous need arising from the 14-year long civil war have made the repatriation process extremely difficult. So far, UNHCR has rehabilitated 120 km of roads and repaired 26 bridges. It has rebuilt 100 schools and 40 clinics throughout Liberia. UNHCR has in addition to its normal mandate also assisted in significant resource allocations to ensure that nearly 120 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are also assisted to return home. The agency will continue to support this effort.

"UNHCR will continue to provide everyone who wants to return with assistance to do so", Mr. Moses Okello, Representative of UNHCR BO Monrovia, stated, during a Press Conference held this morning. "It should, however, be kept in mind that repatriation is voluntary", he said. This year the agency expects 95 000 Liberians to come back.

Currently UNHCR is providing assistance to over 255 000 Liberian refugees in neighboring countries of asylum. Up until May 2005 about 15 000 refugees have been facilitated to come home by UNHCR' s organized repatriation operation. Another 175 000 have returned spontaneously and are receiving community based assistance.

For further information please contact

UNHCR Media relation Public Information Service
Haider Building, Mamba Point, UN Drive Monrovia
Annette Rehrl, Public Information Offcier, mobile 077 -- 044 856,
Sarah Brownell, Public Information Assistant, mobile 06 -- 528 083,