By Lewis S. Teh
The Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) has assured Liberian returnees from Ghana and other African countries of government’s unflinching support in providing them suitable homes upon arrival back home.
Since the end of the civil war here, Liberians, who sought refuge in neighboring countries have been struggling to return home especially, those residing at the Buduburam camp in Ghana that were asked to vacate the camp by Ghanian authorities.
During a site-seeing tour of ongoing construction of temporary homes for returnees, LRRRC authorities said they are concerned about the well-being of returnees, but lack of sufficient funding poses threat to their activities.
The tour was thoroughly conducted recently at which time it was observed that a transit center is being constructed in Johnsonville through the supervision of LRRRC with funding from UNHCR. When completed, the facility will temporarily host returnees until they are reconnected with family members.
Prefabricated housing units are being constructed with each containing six rooms and a water tower to supply the facilities, including electricity to give former refugees a life worth living through it would be transitory.
At the Johnsonville site, contractor Madison Karr, who works for Super Incorporated, a construction company with expertise in building and managing prefab units expressed delight that he is leading a team of Liberians involved in building temporary dwelling places for fellow Liberians who are returning home after many years of seeking refuge in Ghana due to the civil war.
Karr did not disclose the amount LRRRC is paying his company for the work but noted that as a Liberian company, they have reached an agreement in the best interest of all, including the returnees expected in the country before the end of the year.
He said that his company was sub-contracted by Future Builders Incorporated, another construction company to specifically erect the prefab housing units that are constructed, using iron and particular zinc rather than tarpaulins or blocks.
LRRRC Executive Director, Rev. Fetus Logan said, the intent of using iron zinc to construct the housing units is to ensure durability and avoid frequent repairs.
Rev. Logan explained that his office does not have enough funding and requisite logistics, but is thankful that central government is making efforts to provide needed resources to repatriate returnees.
Logan disclosed that 1,539 former Liberian refugees have already been profiled and are willing to return home hopefully by September 2022.
He said the transit center in Johnsonville is being constructed on 3.1 acres, detailing that some returnees will go to Nimba and Grand Gedeh, counties, their respective original homes but the Commission will closely work with partners to ensure they are reintegrated properly.
“About 200 persons are undecided on where they will go next after here. Some have stayed in Ghana for 32 years and they know only Ghana. They will stay in this transit camp until they have a place each to go,” he said.
He disclosed that US$49,000 is set aside for the construction of the transit camp, but noted this amount needs to be increased, hoping that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning would come in when the need arises.
According to Rev. Logan, US$300,000 is budgeted for all of the processes leading to arrival of returnees, a package of US$300 per dependent and settlement at the transit camp.
“For the International Office for Migration, the amount of US$300 is small”, he added.
He said his office will work with the Liberian Red Cross, UNHCR, the International Office for Migration (IOM) and all other stakeholders for the smooth repatriation of the former Liberian refugees.
Beyond economic livelihood, issues of culture and tradition that might be alien to the returnees were also captured. Rev. Logan said his office will work with Madam Julie Endee, Liberia’s culture ambassador to orientate those returning home. Editing by Jonathan Browne