A high-level delegation of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), headed by the Commission's Director General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, Monday held discussions with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.
Mr. Guterres extended thanks and appreciation to the Government and people of Liberia, particularly Liberians residing at the border for the warm reception accorded Ivoirians fleeing the political crisis in their country.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the UNHCR official expressed regrets for the delay by the Commission to respond to the refugee crisis along the border. The Commission, he admitted, did not move fast enough in responding to the refugee crisis along the border. The UN official, however, assured the Liberian President that UNHCR is totally committed to providing support in buttressing the Liberian Government's effort in dealing with the situation. "We are not waiting for donor's money to do what we have to do," he emphasized.
Mr. Guterres expressed concern over the humanitarian and security situation in Cote d'Ivoire and spoke of the need for the international community to take the necessary steps to end the political statement in that country, which he described as a threat to Liberia and the sub-region.
President Johnson Sirleaf thanked the UNHCR delegation for the visit, describing it as one which reassures the government and people. The President said the refugee situation poses greater risks to Liberia and hoped all efforts would be made to address the crisis. The President said the refugee situation along the border has stretched the already limited resources of Government. The President welcomed the UNHCR's visit and promised government's cooperation in working with the UN Agency to address the situation near the border. The Liberian leader also spoke of the plight of Liberians residing in Cote d'Ivoire and said Government would welcome back home any of its citizens who wishes to return, but cautioned that a thorough screening process must be put in place to ensure that those concerned are not returning to infiltrate the process.
The President said the infrastructure challenges in rural Liberia were making it difficult to reach all refugees along the border, but efforts were being made to provide access.
More than 60-thousand refugees have reportedly fled to Liberia since the political crisis in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire.
The UNHCR Director-General is in Liberia on a two-day visit to assess the refugee situation along the Liberian-Cote d'Ivoire border. The Resident Representative of the UNHCR, Mr. Ibrahima Coly, the Executive Director of LRRRC, Mrs. Wheatonia Barnes, and the Ministers of Foreign & Internal Affairs, participated in Mondays' meeting with the President.