UNHCR wraps up the Liberian repatriation operation

Briefing Notes, 4 January 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 January 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In West Africa, UNHCR has concluded the repatriation operation for tens of thousands of Liberians who were forced into exile because of 14 years of civil war in their country. The final 724 Liberians returned from Guinea on the last weekend of 2012, officially ending our return program that began a year after peace was restored in Liberia, in 2004.

In total, UNHCR helped 155,560 Liberian refugees go home, mainly by road convoys and flights. As part of the program, each returning refugee received a small cash grant to help them restart their lives.

Once back home, the returnees are further helped by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) to get jobs, including government positions for those with the required skills. LRRRC also provides scholarships and assistance in acquiring a plot of land for construction of their houses.

Liberia's civil war broke out on Christmas Eve 1989 and ended in 2003. 750,000 civilians became either internally displaced (ca. 500,000) or refugees (ca. 250,000) in the ensuing violence and instability. Some refugees spent more than two decades in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Gambia. Many have since returned with UNHCR help and most of the rest on their own.

Owing to the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia, the end of refugee status came into effect on 30 June 2012 for Liberians who had fled the fighting.

Meanwhile, Liberia hosts nearly 67,000 Ivorian refugees who had to flee from violence in their own country. The majority of them sought refuge in Liberia during the post-electoral crisis in 2010 and 2011. The facilitated voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees is also in progress although most have indicated they would like to stay in Liberia until stronger reconciliation processes are initiated in their country.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar (Regional): Helene Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483



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Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

As of late March, more than 100,000 Ivorian refugees had crossed into eastern Liberia since lingering political tension from a disputed presidential election in neighbouring Côte d' Ivoire erupted into violence in February. Most have gone to Liberia's Nimba County, but in a sign that the fighting has shifted, some 6,000 Ivorians recently fled across the border into Liberia's Grand Gedeh County. Most of the new arrivals have settled in remote villages - some inaccessible by car. The UN refugee agency sent a mission to assess the needs of the refugees in the region.

Photographer Glenna Gordon photographed new arrivals near Zwedru in south-eastern Liberia.

New flows of Ivorian refugees into Liberia

Liberia: A Neighbour's HelpPlay video

Liberia: A Neighbour's Help

Alphonse Gonglegbe fled to Liberia with his family a few months ago. He appreciates the help he's been receiving in this land neighbouring his native Côte d'Ivoire.
Liberia: Hurried FlightPlay video

Liberia: Hurried Flight

Tens of thousands of Ivorians have fled their villages and sought shelter in Liberia. Francis says he ran for his life and now he wants safety and food.
Liberia: Settling InPlay video

Liberia: Settling In

A dozen new shelters are built every day in Liberia's Bahn refugee camp. Eventually there will be 3,000 shelters for some of the many civilians who have fled from neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.