More than 1,600 Liberian refugees returned home Friday, 27 July, the highest return in a single day since 2009. The returnees included 1,566 from Côte d'Ivoire and 79 from Ghana.
The refugees from Ghana returned by air with the assistance of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) aeroplane through the country's main Roberts International Airports while those from Côte d'Ivoire returned by road from Toulépleu and Tabou areas. They were received in Liberia by UNHCR in Monrovia, Zwedru and Harper offices after security and immigration formalities.
The return, which brings to more than 12,500 Liberian refugees that have so far returned this year, comes on the heels of the end of refugee status for Liberian refugees on June 30 this year. The returnees were officially welcomed on behalf of the Government of Liberia by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission and assured of security and assistance to reintegrate into society.
Since 2004, UNHCR has facilitated the return of more than 138,600 Liberian refugees. Most of them who fled during the country's 14 year conflict sought shelter mostly in other West Africa countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
Expressing delight that more Liberians are returning after many years in refuge, the UNHCR Representative, Mr. Cosmas Chanda, said the number of refugees who registered to return before the 30 June deadline exceeded expectation. "We thank donors for their support to the repatriation process, but we need more support to facilitate voluntary return," he reiterated. Representative Chanda said the ongoing repatriation involves huge logistical, human and financial requirements. "We had planned to receive 15,000 returnees this year as the refugee status for Liberians ended. However, about 25,000 persons had registered to return," he said, pointing out that more than 12,000 remain to be assisted to return, the UNHCR release concluded.