UNHCR helps 155,000 Liberian refugees return home

The UN Refugee Agency (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 UNHCR’s return program that began a year after peace was restored in Liberia, in 2004, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said.

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. Some 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 30th 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.

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