The UN refugee agency has started issuing identity cards to refugees around Monrovia in a joint effort with the Liberian government to enhance the protection of refugees in the country.
The ID card distribution started over the weekend and is mainly aimed at Sierra Leonean refugees who remain in camps near the Liberian capital. Other recipients include urban refugees of different nationalities who had undergone the registration process during the first phase of the profiling exercise that started earlier this month.
UNHCR helped some 40,000 Sierra Leonean refugees to return home from Liberia before it ended its repatriation operation to Sierra Leone in the middle of last year. For those who choose to remain in Liberia for a variety of reasons, the agency is providing them with assistance this year to integrate locally. The material assistance should be phased out by the end of the year, leaving the Sierra Leonean refugees with protection and legal assistance.
Meanwhile, the profiling exercise is continuing in Liberia's south and east. The registration has been completed of Ivorian refugees at Saclepea refugee camp in Nimba county as well as in Little Weebo and Harper in Maryland county. The UNHCR team also plans to register Ivorian refugees living in border communities in south-eastern Liberia.
The registration and profiling exercise is part of UNHCR's efforts to develop a common database using a new system called ProGres. It seeks to document refugees, verifying and compiling extensive biographical data and photographs into a single database. The compiled data makes it easier for UNHCR staff to conduct refugee status determination, provide assistance and protection, process resettlement cases and facilitate voluntary repatriation and local integration
Repatriation from Tabou soon starts
UNHCR Tabou has completed the registration exercise and 28,169 persons were registered. Out of the total of 28,169 individuals registered, 7,000 expressed their willingness to return to Liberia. The decrease in the refugee caseload could be attributed to the on-going farming activities that could have prevented refugees to report to the registration center and the fact that refugees are scattered within local communities settlements. UNHCR Tabou informed the communities that registration will continue in few areas not covered by the two registration teams.
After the inauguration of the UNHCR ferry on April 22, repatriation from Tabou region in Cote D'Ivoire can finally starts. A total of 400 individuals are expected to return to Monrovia in two convoys of 200 people each. The first convoy of Monrovia-bound returnees will take place on 29 April, while a second convoy is tentatively scheduled on May 6. The list of vulnerable in need of special transportation arrangements will be communicated to Harper ahead of the voluntary repatriation operation so that appropriate arrangements could be made on time. Same approach will apply for medical cases although it was strongly recommended that candidates to return should finish their medical treatment in the country of asylum before repatriating.
During a meeting with the refugee representatives in the Tabou Transit Center, refugees are concern of security situation inside the country of origin, repatriation package, recovery and reconstruction programmes as well as reintegration programmes.
Community Empowerment projects/Skilled Labour Program
As the recovery process in Liberia progressively gathers momentum, sustainable reintegration will require the involvement of skilled labor in the vital basic services sectors which have been neglected due to the prolonged civil conflict. Additionally, the salaries for teachers and medical personnel are not adequate to meet the daily family needs as such most this needed skilled labor continue to live in Monrovia neglecting duties in their counties of return.
On the other hand, many skilled Liberians are still living in the countries of asylum and many more in the country working as volunteers or under community incentives. For instance, according to UNHCR registration records, among the refugees in asylum countries, there are 1253 medical personnel, 2297 teachers, 849 former civil servants and 263 engineers.
The Skilled Labour Program (SLP) will aim at enhancing the livelihood of members of community who are playing the vital role in the recovery of public basic services in their home districts. SLP will target mainly teachers and medical personnel although other skills will be considered on individual basis and based on assessed and prioritized community needs.
These targeted CEPs conform with the principles of Community Driven Development (CDD) and will effectively link with UNDP CBR programme, and other community development programmes developed by CDD/4Rs core group ie USAID, EU, UNICEF, LCIP, ECHO, UNMIL and World Bank.
The main aim is to provide immediate means of livelihood to returning skilled returnees from countries of asylum and at the same time to recognize the role being played by existing skilled personnel at community level. SLP will prioritize activities at community level and will be implemented by UNHCR implementing partners currently involved in CEPs programmes. Recommendations for SLP proposals will have to be presented through the community leadership upon which the Implementing partner will advice on the best possible assistance depending on local needs, market etc. The preferred areas of interventions are crop production, food processing, transportation, micro financing and livelihood support. This targeted assistance is in response to enhancing service delivery in health and education sectors.