UNHCR Liberia: Briefing Notes 19 Jul 2005

1. UNHCR establishing Repatriation Processing Centers (RPCs) for spontaneous returnees

Most of the Liberian refugees living in neighboring Countries of Asylum decide spontaneously when to come back and why. Usually they are doing so by their own means. Some come to go and see the situation in their home districts, others come to stay right away. So far over 150,000 refugees have returned spontaneously and although they got assistance from UNHCR after coming back the agency wanted to get a more detailed picture of their whereabouts.

That's why UNHCR has jointly with WFP and LRRRC established a first returnee registration point in Bo Water Side for returnees heading towards Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado, Bomi and Gborpolu Counties.

Six more centers, all of them close to the border respectively to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d' Ivoire, where most spontaneous returnees are expected, are soon to follow. They will be established in Foya, Zorzor and Voinjama for returnees to Lofa County; in Ganta for returnees to Nimba, Bong and Mont-serrado Counties; in Harper for returnees to Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties and in Toe Town, for returnees going back to Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties.

The registration points will be operated by UNHCR's Implementing Partners CEP, Peace Winds Japan, UMCOR, Liberia National Red Cross and Caritas.

Once a returnee arrives the registration process is quite easy: The returnee or head of family presents a Voluntary Repatriation Form or another registration document from the Country of Asylum to the UNHCR reception team.

The documents are then verified, the returnee is deregistered and receives a new WFP assistance card. Meanwhile water and dry feeding is provided.

Should returnees wish to get counseling on Protection or Community Services issues they can get all the necessary information on the spot from UNHCR' s teams.

After that, food ration for 2 months and Non Food Items are provided and the 2nd food distribution process is explained. Finally the returnee is provided with transportation allowance, after which the individual or the family might wish to continue towards their home, or the following day transport is arranged.

As for now, the registration points operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Since the first Repatriation Processing Center opened in mid July in Bo Waterside, 43 families consisting of 86 individuals have been processed. The number is increasing and UNHCR' s current Mass Information program is focusing on informing this huge population of concern. Monitoring and assistance to homecoming Liberian refugees will therefore be improved.

By establishing RPCs the UN agency for refugees is responding to the high number of spontaneous returnees still expected to come and accelerating the repatriation process. So far, 27, 828 returnees came back through the organized repatriation since it started in October 2004, of which over 15, 000 returnees went back to Lofa County since February 2005.

2. Increasing number of returnees from Cote d' Ivoire

UNHCR's Fieldoffice Zwedru, Grand Gedeh, and Harper, Maryland, are currently receiving three convoys with hundreds of returnees per week.

Most of the Liberians who have been living in Cote d' Ivoire for several years claim to have confidence in Liberia' s peace process.

While the political situation in Liberia's neighboring country is still fragile, specially in the western part where most Liberians found refuge in host communities, they now decided to rebuild their lives, mainly in Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties.

UNHCR expects a continuing increase of returnees from Cote d' Ivoire and is prepared to receive them during the following weeks and months.