Ivorian refugee repatriation from Liberia this year tops 10,000 mark

News Stories, 30 July 2013

© UNHCR/Liberia
Ivorian returnees wear lifejackets for the crossing of the Cavalla River on a UNHCR-chartered barge.

MONROVIA, Liberia, July 30 (UNHCR) More than 10,000 Ivorians have returned home so far this year from Liberia with UNHCR help, almost double the figure for the whole of last year.

The landmark was passed late last week. The refugees, mostly living in camps and communities in Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Maryland and River Gee counties in Liberia, have returned to areas such as Toulepleu, Tabou and Danane in western Côte d'Ivoire.

The UN refugee agency, in collaboration with the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission and other partners, has been organizing road convoys for those wishing to return more than two years after fleeing post-election violence in Côte d'Ivoire. Those heading back from Maryland County cross the Cavalla River to Côte d'Ivoire on a barge operated by UNHCR.

"Last year, we facilitated the repatriation of more than 6,000 refugees. For this year, our planning figure is to facilitate the repatriation of 16,000 refugees," said UNHCR Officer-in-Charge Andrew Mbogori, thanking donors for supporting the repatriation efforts.

"With 10,000 refugees repatriated over the past seven months, notwithstanding border security concerns a few months ago, we are definitely on track to attain our target," he added.

Over the past year, the repatriation of Ivorian refugees had been interrupted by attacks on villages on the Ivorian side of the border and the killing of seven UN peacekeepers in June last year. "We welcome the improvement in border security, which is encouraging more refugees to return, and we hope the security situation will continue to improve," remarked Mbogori.

Many of those crossing the border at the Cavalla River stressed that the improved security had been a major factor in their decision to return. "Now that security has improved in my country, I am happy to be returning to Tabou region to maintain my cocoa plantation, which is my main source of income," said Pierre, a father of five, as he crossed into Côte d'Ivoire, the word's largest cocoa-producing country.

Other refugees are returning to continue their education back home. "I was at a university in Abidjan which closed in 2011 as a result of the post-election violence [from November 2010 to April 2011]. Now that it has reopened and there is peace in our capital, I am happy to go back and continue my education," said 25-year-old Gnato.

Deteriorating road conditions with seasonal rains are, however, new challenges to the repatriation process. "We are engaged in road rehabilitation activities, as well as working with partners such as the UN Mission in Liberia engineers to keep roads open. As long as we have refugees willing to return home, we want to ensure that we assist them to do so in safety and in dignity," said UNHCR official Fatima Mohammed.

Upon return to Côte d'Ivoire, former refugees receive a cash grant, food and non-food items. Liberia currently hosts more than 58,000 Ivorian refugees.

The Côte d'Ivoire crisis began after the presidential election of November 2010, which pitted incumbent Laurent Gbagbo against Alassane Ouattara. Fighting caused widespread displacement and at the peak more than 220,000 Ivorian had fled to Liberia. Most returned home on their own after election winner Ouattara gained power. A repatriation operation was launched late that year, gaining steam in 2012.

By Sulaiman Momodu in Monrovia, Liberia




UNHCR country pages


UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

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

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

UNHCR has expressed its mounting concern about civilians trapped in the Abobo district of Cote d'Ivoire's commercial centre, Abidjan, following days of fierce fighting between forces loyal to rival presidential candidates. The situation there remains grim. Many of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Abobo have fled, but armed groups are reportedly preventing others from leaving. UNHCR is particularly concerned about vulnerable people, such as the sick and the elderly, who may not be able to leave.

Running for shelter in Côte d'Ivoire

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.