With more than 5,200 Ivorian refugees so far repatriated this year, the last batch of Ivorian refugees today left the Dougee Refugee Camp in Grand Gedeh County as the Government of Liberia, through its Refugee Agency, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) close the camp.
At its peak, Dougee Camp hosted nearly 6,000 refugees, the majority of whom had been repatriated to Côte d'ivoire. The last batch of 114 refugees was, however, relocated to the PTP Refugee Camp in Grand Gedeh County at the former Prime Timber Production site.
They are among more than 62,000 Ivorian refugees currently residing in Liberia, many of whom have indicated that they would like to stay in Liberia a bit longer.
"There is a spike in return. So far this year, we have facilitated the repatriation of more than 5,200 Ivorian refugees compared to about 6,000 in 2011 and 2012 when the repatriation exercise was interrupted last June following the killing of seven UN peacekeepers on the Ivorian side of the border," said Acting UNHCR Representative Robert Tibagwa.
Dougee is the second refugee camp to be decommissioned in Liberia over the past one year. The first camp was Ziah. The two camps were among six new camps established during the Ivorian refugee influx into Liberia in late 2010 and 2011. At the peak of the influx, more than 200,000 Ivoirian crossed over into Liberia.
The Executive Director of the LRRRC, ClIr. Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes, said the decision to close and consolidate refugee camps was prompted by the reduction in lvorian refugee population in the country and the ongoing facilitated voluntary repatriation to Cote dIvoire, and in view of the high cost of running a refugee camp.
"We would like to express our profound appreciation to the Government and people of Liberia for hosting Ivorian refugees," said UNHCR Head of Sub-office Fatima Mohammed. She said the official handover of Dougee Camp will be later this month during which structures built in the camp would be handed over to the local population as a sign of gratitude for hosting the refugees.
Meanwhile, following a security incident last week near the Liberian border in Zilebly village in Cote d'lvoire that left some people fatally wounded, UNHCR and LRRRC border monitoring teams say there are no new arrivals into Liberia although internal displacement had occurred. Acting UNHCR Representative Tibagwa expressed hope of continued improvement in security in Cote d'lvoire that will encourage more refugees to return.