UNHCR To Repatriate 350,000 Liberian Refugees
By: I. Solo Kelgbeh
Posted April 30, 2004
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says it needs about US$39.2m to ably undertake the repatriation and integration of Liberian refugees.
Some 350,000 Liberian refugees in the subregion are expected to be repatriated and reintegrated in October this year.
Making the disclosure yesterday at a well-attended press briefing, UNHCR’s Country Representative Moses Okello said, although some Liberian refugees have been returning home spontaneously, UNHCR will begin the organized repatriation in October.
The UNHCR Country Representative said all is set for the repatriation of the refugees come October except for the funds. He commended some donors for their assistance thus far and also pleaded with others to do so for the repatriation of the refugees.
He pointed out that generous countries have given some money but the UNHCR has a short fall of US$25.2m for the exercise. “Funding has been a problem for UNHCR and other UN agencies”, Mr. Okello noted.
Giving reasons why the exercise will commence in October despite the eagerness and willingness on the part of the refugees to come home now, Mr. Okello noted that by the time indicated, the DDRR would have taken place and the environment would have become more conducive for the exercise.
In addition to being in the dry season come October, Rep. Okello maintained that UNHCR would have also established sub-offices throughout the country to cater to the returnees in the various counties.
Although UNHCR has an office in Voinjama, Lofa County, he hinted UNHCR will open offices in Zwedru, Bopolu, Saclepea, Harper, Tubmanburg and Gbarnga to coordinate its activities.
Commending UNMIL for assisting in bringing home the stranded Liberians from Sikasso recently, Mr. Okello warned Liberians wishing to return mainly those in asylum countries, to wait for the organized repatriation.
Recently UNHCR in collaboration with UNMIL and LRRRC, returned 239 stranded Liberians. Mr. Okello said UNMIL provided transportation while UNHCR did the ground work and provided other cares for the returnees.
Mr. Okello also disclosed that over 600 Liberian refugees have recently returned from Sierra Leone. He said the returnees are presently being sheltered in Perry Town and Singbe IDPs’ camps.
Meanwhile, Mr. Okello has pledged UNHCR’s unflinching support for the ongoing DDRR exercise.
He said a thorough DDRR in Liberia will pave the way for the successful repatriation of Liberians refugees around the world.
He said UNHCR is working along with UNMIL in carrying out the DDRR. Mr. Okello said UNHCR provides trucks to transport the disarming combatants to cantonment sites and women and children to interim care centers.
UNHCR is also providing some non food items to the disarming combatants.
In a related development, UNHCR’s boss, Ruud Lubbers is expected in the country next week.