The Governments of Liberia and Cote d’lvoire have commended the ongoing voluntary repatriation of thousands of Ivorian refugees from Liberia at a two-day meeting held at the Ministry of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, from 27-28 March.
Some 8,000 Ivorian refugees have repatriated from Liberia in less than three months this year and over 18,000 in 2013.
The Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Ivorian refugees, which comprises the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), expressed satisfaction over the significant progress made in the implementation of the provisions contained in the Tripartite Agreement which was signed in August 2011 in Abidjan.
The Agreement, which sets out the framework for voluntary repatriation, is regularly reviewed through a tripartite mechanism during which achievements and challenges are discussed.
Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Varney A. Sirleaf, described the decrease in the Ivorian refugee population in Liberia from about 220,000 in 2011 to the current 46,000 refugees remaining in the country as “a huge achievement”.
The Commission endorsed the recommendations of the third meeting of the Technical Working Group centred on medical screening before repatriation; strengthening of information sharing to enable refugees make informed decisions to voluntarily return; accelerating returns; and regularization of the civil documents issued to returning refugees.
In the area of security challenges, UNHCR expressed concern in relation to the recent incidents at the border and reminded the two Governments of the necessity to take all the appropriate measures to ensure an enabling security environment in the areas of return in order not to slow down the momentum on voluntary repatriation.
The UN refugee agency also reminded the two Governments of their commitment to respect international protection principles in particular the cardinal principle of non-re foulement, to which all the parties agreed.
UNHCR Representatives Mohamed Toure of Côte d’Ivoire and Khassim Diagne of Liberia reiterated the need to continue the voluntary repatriation process ahead of the rainy season which comes with a lot of logistical challenges and which would necessitate the rehabilitation of roads used during repatriation.
The final communique was signed by the Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of COte d’lvoire, Mr. Djerou Robert Ly; Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Liberia, Mr. Varney A. Sirleaf; and the UNHCR Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Mohamed Toure.
The meeting was attended by Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, ClIr. Boakai Kanneh; the Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), ClIr. Abla G. Williams; the Director of the Service for Aid and Assistance to Refugees and Stateless Persons (SAARA), Ambassador Timothée Ezouan, and other Governments of Liberia, Côte d’lvoire and UNHCR officials.