Ivorian refugees living in Liberia have appealed to Ambassadors and representatives of various countries and organizations around the world for more support during an unprecedented visit to refugee camps in Liberia.
With more than 52,000 Ivorian refugees living in four camps and various communities in Liberia, some 20 ambassadors and representatives of international organizations flew from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to the PTP Refugee Camp in Grand Gedeh County and the Little Wlebo Refugee Camp in Maryland County near the border with Côte d’Ivoire on 29 January and 31 January respectively in order to get firsthand impressions of the Ivorian refugee situation, amidst funding reduction in the wake of refugee emergencies in other countries such as Syria and the Central African Republic.
The Ambassadors and representatives were from Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, European Union, France, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sweden, and USA. Others were the African Development Bank, African Union Commission, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the World Bank.
The Government of Liberia was represented by Cllr. Abla G. Williams, the executive director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC). Senior UN officials, including the UN Mission in Liberia and UN agencies, were also part of the delegation.
At Liberia’s largest PTP camp located at a former Prime Timber Production site and currently hosting more than 12,000 refugees, the ambassadors toured various facilities and witnessed activities refugees are engaged in such as the cultivation of acres of land and skills training. UNHCR works in collaboration with the LRRRC and other partners.
At the Little Wlebo camp with more than 10,000 refugees, the delegation witnessed schools in session and refugees’ poultry production initiative. During the visit, US Ambassador Deborah Ruth Malac launched a newly-constructed US-funded Women’s Centre with literacy classes, day care centre, and micro finance and income generating components.
“It is my hope that this centre will give the opportunity to women and girls to acquire skills while in refuge and to use such skills upon their return,” she remarked. Ambassador Kapieletien Soro of Côte d’Ivoire urged the refugees to return home and reiterated that peace and stability had been restored to their country.
Acknowledging that progress has been made, the refugees, however, called for stronger reconciliation efforts, increase in repatriation grant, and disarmament as factors that would encourage more returns in the ongoing facilitated voluntary repatriation process.
During the visit to Maryland County, two Liberian senators from the county who joined the delegation, John A. Ballout and H. Dan Morais, noted that they were once refugees in Côte d’Ivoire before returning home to vie for public office. Senator Morais donated note books and pens to the refugees and promised to donate more school materials.
“This mission is to give the opportunity to the ambassadors to see how their donations are being used and to exchange views with refugees on finding durable solutions to their situation,” said UNHCR Representative Khassim Diagne, expressing gratitude to the ambassadors for visiting the refugee camps, most of them for the first time.