Nigeria is among the latest signatory of countries hosting Liberian refugees in the region to sign the Tripartite Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Liberia and UNHCR. The Tripartite Agreement provides the legal framework for the safe return of the Liberian refugees seeking asylum in the region. So far, 848 Liberian refugees have opted to return from Nigeria since the Voluntary Repatriation Operation started in October 2004.
More Liberian Refugee to return home
The Voluntary Repatriation of Liberian refugees continued with a larger number of return populations (14,000) to Lofa County. Return to Maryland County from Tabou, Cote d'Ivoire has also picked up momentum. The total of Liberians repatriated so far are 26,733 as of 11 July 2005. With regard to spontaneous returnees, appropriate mechanisms have been put in place at the Transit site in Tubmanburg to de-register those with a UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Form (VRF) who returned without UNHCR's assitance. These individulas are also entitled to receive the return package for returnees. In another development, UNHCR continued its key role in providing transport grant and Non-Food Items to IDPs within the framework of the inter-agency collaborative effort. The protection monitoring of IDP camps to identify vulnerable IDPs with protection concerns, including mental health problems and children left behind in camps continues.
Meanwhile, a decision to continue providing international protection to urban Ivorian refugees has been reached. It was also agreed that those needing other assistance apart from international protection will be advised to move to the refugee camp for Ivorian refugees in Saclepea to receive such assistance from there, if possible.
UNHCR closes Perry Town Returnee Camp
As a result of the UNHCR facilitated Voluntary Repatriation program for Liberian refugees, the Perry Town Returnee Camp that sheltered a total of 11,315 Liberian returnees from Sierra Leone has officially closed. The returnees prematurely returned to Liberia in December 2003 barely three months after the signing of Liberia's peace deal in Ghana and once again found themselves in a camp like situation due to the prevailing insecurity in their areas of origin. With the return to communities, meaningful interventions would be possible with the participation of the community members.
In February 2004, UNHCR through partnership with its Government counterpart, Liberia Refugee Repartition and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), and Implementing Partner, Concern Christian Community (CCC) established the Perry Town Returnee Camp to provide protection and coordinate assistance to the stranded refugee population. The camp comprised of 556 shelters of which UNHCR built 60 units for the vulnerable.
The returnees constructed the rest of the shelters with material support from UNHCR. Transportation assistance from the border point, Bo-Waterside to Monrovia was provided for a greater number of the returnees who were unable to complete their journey due to lack of funds. The transport assistance was boosted by the presence of UNMIL troop who patrolled the route between Liberia and Sierra Leone and secured safe passage to Monrovia.
Training Workshops for Customs and Immigration Officers
A two-day workshop held on 4-5 July 2005 was organized for Customs and Immigration officers. The objective of the workshop was to share ideas on the legal framework on the voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees as provided for under the Tripartite Agreement and the immigration and customs practices in Liberia. The 24 officers participated were trained on admissibility procedures. Similar workshops will be planned for Immigration/Customs officers at the various field locations in the near future.
News From the Field
Due to the increase in SGBV cases in Bong County, the HIV/AIDS task force has arranged with the youth group BOCAP for awareness-raising in the 12 Districts. The youth group was trained jointly by UNHCR, Phebe Aids Support Organisation and the Lutheran Church in Liberia Aids Programme. UNHCR is funding the task force to train, organize and implement the awareness-raising programme.
Renovation of Gboveh High School in Gbarnga is steadily progressing. The right wing is completed with finishing tourshes being done. Zincing is completed on the left wing while wiring and ceiling works continues. Monitoring continued of other projects such as the school in Palele, Community Guest house in Belefanai, Zota District.
The construction of a library and school has commenced at the refugee camp in Saclepea, Nimba County. Also, the bridge linking the Transit Center and the new refugee community in Saclepea has been renovated.
Thirty eight refugee women are benefiting from skills training in hairdressing and sewing. Twenty are enrolled in the sewing class and eighteen in hairdressing class.