11 July 2012

Liberia: 12, 300 Liberian Refugees Still in Exile

Many years after protracted civil wars ended in Angola and Liberia, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has affirmed that people who fled as refugees from those countries will no longer be considered refugees.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said people who fled those two countries were no longer refugees and that the organization would work with host and origin governments "to find solutions for those refugees who wish either to return home or to remain in their host countries due to strong ties there."

According to a U.N. news release, UNHCR repatriated 135,000 Liberians since 2004, a year after the country's civil war ended. About 16,641 applied to return home, but another 12,300 would prefer to stay where they are now.

The refugee status change also affects Angolans who fled the country during the 1965-1975-independence war from Portugal that ended in a civil war that lasted for 37 years after initial hostilities started.

Some 23,300 Angolans began returning home as of last year while about 26,000 plan to return. But 51,000 others will stay in DR Congo and 10,000 will be permitted to stay in Zambia, the release indicated.

The French news agency AFP reported Monday that many Angolans started heading home, the second largest oil producing country in Africa after Nigeria.

An 8 percent economic growth forecast for this year, reconstruction efforts already underway, and the Angolan government's plan to repatriate former refugees has encouraged the end to refugee status for the Portuguese-speaking nation.

A map of refugees in Africa provided by UNHCR shows the bulk of refugees, including returnees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers, located in DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, with smaller numbers reported in Ivory Coast, Chad, Kenya, and Uganda.

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