The Government of Liberia appeals to the United Nations and other donors to support some 9,000 Ivorian refugees here, including 77 mixed nationals and 42 asylum seekers.
The Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) executive director Festus R.B. Logan seeks funding for major activities including agricultural projects and livelihood programmes for sustainability of refugees and persons of concern as the country moves towards full local integration.
Speaking at program marking World Refugee Day in Margibi County, he says the Government of Liberia and partners have already begun piloting educational and health transition processes of refugees, including construction of durable shelters in Bahn camp, Nimba County.
Director Logan notes that this year, LRRRC and UNHCR have repatriated over 400 Ivorian refugees, though official voluntary repatriation had since ended in the country.
He says as for those refugees who opted for local integration into the Liberian society for reasons of fear of prosecution in home countries and other factors, the LRRRC and UNHCR developed a Local Integration Strategy in 2018 and submitted same to the Board of Commissioners for endorsement and onward submission to President George Manneh Weah.
He notes that June 20, 2019 is an historic epoch marking the observance and celebration of World refugee Day globally, saying, “The celebration this year will serve as a platform to raise awareness and promote solidarity among Refugees, Returnees and IDPs in the promotion and dissemination of information on the outcome of the 50th Anniversary of the AU Convention, the 10th Anniversary of the Kampala Convention and other protocols related to forced displacement and different durable solutions notably voluntary repatriation and local integration.”
Foreign refugees here recently complained of abandonment, including lack of education, quality health care, and security, among others.
However, Director Logan admonishes them to be law-abiding and show respect for constituted authority.“As we celebrate this World Refugees Day, I want to admonish you foreign refugees to be law-abiding and exercise respect for constituted authority”, he cautions.
Giving a brief history of the celebration, he recalls that the 1951 Convention and its Protocol of 1967 clearly indicate the status, protection, rights and assistance for refugees but did not set aside any day to be observed as World Refugees Day, but owing to the alarming rate of refugee’s crises and plight in Africa, the erstwhile Organization of African Unity (OAU) during its 1969 Addis Ababa Convention, considering the specific refugees’ plight on the African continent, recognizes June 20th of each year as African Refugees Day, adding that later in 2000, the day was unanimously adopted as World Refugee Day by a special UN General Assembly Resolution.
UNHCR Country Representative in Liberia, Zulqarnain Hussain Anjum says, World Refugees Day was set aside by the UN to reflect on the millions of families that are living far from their homes, leaving everything behind not by their own choice, but due to war or prosecution.
Mr. Anjum estimates that there 70 million people worldwide define as refugees or internally displaced persons in various communities, stressing that when people seek refuge from violence, they are protected by international laws, but local communities receiving them must be the first to provide such protection.
He pledges UNHCR and its partners’ continuous support to helping refugees, saying. We will help the people to provide them with shelter, food, water and medical care, but the local communities must contribute more, not only giving them chances, but for many years to come.”
The June 20, 2019 World Refugee Day, held under the them: “Taking a Step with Refuges”, brought together scores of foreign refugees from neighboring countries including Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, mixed nationals, officials of government, donors and partners, among others.
Delivering the keynote address, the Special Representative of the AU Commission to Liberia, Mr. Ibrahim Kamara says celebration of the day reminds how women and children fled their homeland and other areas of residence for safety and shelter to avoid prosecution.
“We at the African Union take issue of refugees, and (IDPS) very seriously and that’s why in September 1969 various heads of states adopted the (OAU) Convention to deal with refugee problems in Africa”, Mr. Kamara asserts. By Lewis S. Teh–Editing by Jonathan Browne