Liberian refugees headed home from Cote d'Ivoire on 29 April 2005 in the inaugural voyage to Harper, Maryland County in southeastern Liberia. Some 113 refugees from the Tabou area in southwestern Cote d' Ivoire crossed the Cavalla River separating the two countries on board the newly rehabilitated Ferry. UNHCR repaired the Ferry in early March ahead of the return movement. Friday's convoy marked the first organized return through Maryland County since the refugee agency kicked off its regional repatriation operation for Liberian refugees last October. To date, UNHCR has so far assisted the return of 14,524 persons from asylum countries in the region. Reports of spontaneous returnees continue to be received. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) -- a UNHCR implementing partner is collecting information about Liberian refugees who have spontaneously returned.
UNHCR is also involved in the return exercise of Liberia's internally displaced from recognized camps to their places of origin. Through this interagency collaboration, an estimated 122,000 IDPs have been assisted to leave IDP camps in the country.
In a related development, 26 returnees who were stranded in Sawmill, Bomi County were transported to Bopolu and also received allowance for onward transportation to Belle Fassama, which is not easily accessible due to bad road condition. Efforts, are in the meantime, pursued to reconditon roads and runways in order to continue humanitarian interventions during the rainy eason. UNHCR has untertaken the initiative to rehabilitate the runway in Saclepea and also intends to carry out similar activity in Harper. Also, rehabilitation work has commenced on the highway linking two major districts in Grand Cape Mount County.
UNHCR Attends Child Protection Meeting in Guinea
UNHCR participated in a cross border inter-agency meeting on separated/unaccompanied children in Nzerekore, Guinea. The meeting discussed strategies to properly receive, handle and manage separated children travelling on convoys to Liberia. Also, a two-day Protection/Community Services workshop on the repatriation process took place on April 27-28 in Tubmamburg and Sinje respectively. Ninety participants representing stakeholders such as LRRRC, immigration/customs officials and implementing partners attended the workshop. Participants were briefed about the legal framework pertaining to repatriation, protection principles and guidelines, main steps in the return process, responsibilities of various stakeholders. Through practical team works, participants were able to understand how poor experiences (lack of communication, poor planning/coordination, sexual exploitation, etc.) can negatively impact the return process.
Reintegration Activity - Key Priority of UNHCR
Significant progress has been made on ongoing Community Empowerment Projects in the country. UNHCR in collaboration with its implementing partners continue to monitor progress of these projects which include shelters, roads, water points, schools and clinics. Seeds and tools distribution are ongoing in several counties to help improve the food situation of returnees. In the area of education, UNHCR has embarkled on efforts to increase the absorbtion capacity of schools in the country by rehabilitating and constructing school facilities. In Grand Gedeh County, some 1,100 students are currently enrolled at three schools UNHCR rehabilitated. Efforts are in the meantime being pursued to transport some 250 chairs for students enrolled at the Zwedru Multilateral Highs School.
UNHCR environmental partner, EFA, has constructed tree nursery at the demonstration site in Saclepea. The tree nursery includes oil palm, Acacia and Grape. EFA also continues to create awareness on environmental concerns in schools and at the community level. Currently, ten schools in three districts in Nimba County are benefiting from this awareness campaign.