President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has commended the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for its humanitarian efforts in assisting thousands of Ivorian refugees living in Liberia to return home.
“I am glad that the repatriation process is moving on very well,” said the Liberian leader during a briefing over the weekend in which the UNHCR Representative, Khassim Diagne, said nearly 13,000 refugees have been, so far, assisted to return home this year in the ongoing facilitated voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees. Despite challenging road conditions with ongoing seasonal rains, Representative Diagne expressed optimism that the target of repatriating 16,000 refugees this year will be exceeded.
At the briefing which was also attended by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Morris Dukuly, the Liberian leader was pleased to note that the UN refugee agency recently organized a “Go-and-See” mission of 18 Ivorian refugees from Grand Gedeh County, and that that they have returned with positive impressions that the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire has improved to enable return. The mission was organized in line with the Tripartite Commission on the Voluntary Repatriation of Ivorian Refugees Living in Liberia. In an effort to dispel rumours about prevailing conditions in Côte d’Ivoire, the UNHCR is also organizing “Come-and-Tell” visits for former refugees in order for them to inform remaining Ivorian refugees about improved security and reconciliation efforts in their country. “We are doing all we can to encourage and facilitate return,” Representative Diagne assured President Sirleaf.
Commenting on the upcoming four-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting in Grand Gedeh County which starts on 16 October, the UNHCR Representative described such an initiative as “an important forum whose outcome will surely have an impact on voluntary return intentions and activities”. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity given to Ivorian refugees to make representation and provide inputs to the discussions on voluntary repatriation prospects. It should be noted that the voluntary repatriation of refugees will be among issues to be discussed by more than 100 chiefs and elders from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.
President Sirleaf reiterated that the meeting in Grand Gedeh County is part of efforts to promote peace and stability in the West African sub-region, and pointed out that President Alassane Ouattara was keen on accelerating the reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR, which works in collaboration with the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and other partners, has conducted training for 30 Liberian border security personnel, including Immigration and Police officers, assigned to various border entry points in Nimba County on repatriation. Liberia currently hosts more than 58,000 Ivorian refugees.