The Government of Liberia, through its Refugee Agency, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have launched a 10-day long mass information sensitization campaign in all the six Ivorian refugee camps and communities hosting Ivorian refugees in Liberia.
The campaign was launched on Monday 21st January, 2013 at the Little Wlebo Refugee Camp in Maryland County which hosts about 8,500 Ivorian refugees. The campaign will cover Solo, Dougee and PTP (former Prime Timber Production) refugee camps in Grand Gedeh, as well as Bahn and Saclepea refugee camps in Nimba.
The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness among Ivorian refugees about their rights and obligations, facilitate voluntary repatriation to Côte d'Ivoire, and the decommissioning of Dougee Refugee Camp by 31 March 2013.
Among other things, during the campaign which involves the use of loudspeakers and cultural groups at various locations, radio discussion programmes in appropriate languages will take place. The audiences are to be informed that refugees are civilians not combatants and that the laws of Liberia are not just for Liberians alone but for everyone on Liberian soil.
Refugees are also reminded that in line with relevant Conventions and Protocols, the UNHCR is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international actions to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems.
It is however the primary responsibility of the UNHCR to ensure that refugees access their rights is the State in which they are seeking refuge. "Refugees have rights, but they also have responsibility to obey the laws of the country in which they are seeking refuge," reiterated the Executive Director of the LRRRC, Cllr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes.
"The objective of this campaign is to ensure that the civilian character of asylum and refugee camps is maintained and that refugee camps remain a place of peace and protection. Generally, refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world," remarked the UNHCR Deputy Representative, Robert Tibagwa.
Commenting on the ongoing facilitated voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees, Tibagwa said in line with the Tripartite Agreement signed on 11 August 2011 with the Government of Liberia, the Government of Côte d' Ivoire and UNHCR as parties, refugees who wish to return to Côte d' Ivoire will be assisted with information, documentation and transportation if needed.
Liberia currently hosts more than 65,000 Ivorian refugees most of whom are living in refugee camps.
Most refugees have, however, told various high-powered delegations, including the 15 members of the UN Security Council that visited Liberia in 2012, that they would like to remain in Liberia a bit longer.