Liberian refugees eager to return home from Ghana

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Monday said it had recorded a significant surge in the number of Liberian refugees registering for voluntary repatriation from Ghana following announcement of the cessation invocation which takes effect on June 30, this year.

“Nearly 400 Liberian refugees registered for voluntary repatriation in January alone, nearly equal to the total number of Liberians repatriated in the whole of 2011,” Ms Ewurabena Hutchful, Assistant Public Information Officer, UNHCR told the press in Accra.

The UNHCR and Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) had earlier announced the decision of the international community to invoke the cessation clause of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention for Liberian, Rwandan, Angolan and Burundian refugees across the continent.

The cessation clause was invoked by the international community to declare that the situation in Liberia had improved greatly and that refugees’ reasons for not being able to avail themselves of Liberia’s protection were no longer well-founded.

The invocation, according Ms Hutchful, would be the legal end of the refugee status for the four population groups with Liberian, Angolan and Burundian refugees’ status ending on June 30, 2012 and on June 30, 2013 for Rwandan refugees.

She said most of the refugees, who had stayed in Ghana for over 20 years had since 2006 received various skills training that had equipped them to be useful citizens back in their home countries of origin should they return.

Ms Hutchful stressed that the repatriation was not compulsory but voluntary, however those who do not feel like going back to their countries of origin could legalize their stay in Ghana as ECOWAS nationals through the regular immigration procedures “Because after the deadline, they would no longer be given the refugee status and will not be under our care”.

An adult returnee refugee was entitled to 150 dollars travel grants from the UNHCR while that of a child is fixed at 100 dollars which was intended to cover incidentals or any challenges that come up on their journey back home. Each traveler would also be given a luggage allowance of 30 kilogrammes.

Ms Hutchful asked interested refugees to bring along refugee case numbers, refugee ID cards and an attestation form in person while children must accompany their parents or guardians for the registration, adding that that package was not a resettlement but just a grant and would be given only when travelers were about boarding their planes to Liberia.

Mr Tetteh Padi, Programme Coordinator, GRB explained that in Ghana, Liberian refugees constituted the largest population affected by the cessation invocation with 11,301 of them registered with the UNHCR and GRB as of end of 2011. Only 33 Rwandans and five Burundians were currently registered with the two institutions.

He said irrespective of the options the refugees chose, they were strongly being advised to meet with the UNHCR and the Board during counseling sessions in each camp – Buduburam in the Central and and Krisan in Western Regions respectively, to record their intentions by March 30.

“With third-country group resettlement programmes closed and the vast majority of refugees ineligible for resettlement, two options remain for the refugees facing the cessation of their legal status: to return or to remain in Ghana,” Mr Padi added.

He said the situation in Liberia had since improved so well that there had been two democratic elections held in that country and the peace in that country had normalised with the citizenry going around their normal activities calmly.

However, Mr Padi said a local integration policy was currently being studied by the Government to see how it could reintegrate refugees who would want to remain in the country after the cessation invocation.

Source: GNA

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.