Liberia: Ivoirian Refugees Over 10,000

Electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire's capital Abidjan in 2011 (file photo).
19 November 2020

-as gov't, partners tour Nimba, Maryland counties

Amidst political tension in neighboring Ivory Coast due to recent election, about 500 Ivoirians fleeing the violence, have crossed to Maryland County, southeast Liberia.

On Monday, November 16, 2020, a high-powered delegation including UNICEF, WFP and LRRRC visited Little Wlebo Refugees Camp in Harper, Maryland County Electoral District#1. Maryland County Superintendent George A Prowd, led the delegation to the camp.

Superintendent Prowd thanked members of the delegation for the visit and assured that as local authorities, representing the Liberia government, they will ensure safety and improvement for the newly arrived Ivoirians.

UNHCR Country Representative Roseline Okoro, said the aim of the visit was to observing the emergency situations of the Ivorian Refugees in the county.

She cautioned to avoid misunderstanding among themselves and to always adhere to preventive measures for Covid-19, noting that COVID-19 hasn't be declared free from both countries. "I am encouraging you to be moderate in talking to one another, feel at home; Liberia is your neighboring Country", Madam Okoro said.

She recalled that since the political situation in Ivory Coast, statistics has shown that about 500 Ivoirians have crossed into Maryland County, and are currently residing in the Little Wlebo Refugees Camp.

Responding on behalf of fellow refugees, Mr. Albert Didan, one of the refugees outlined problems they are faced with inside the camp.

Mr. Didan named lack of conducive shelter, water, school, hospital, food, and latrines, among others.

"Let me say that we are pleased to see the UNHCR Country Representative in our mist, but we are appealing to the government and international partners to come to our aid", he pleaded.

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia and international partners have ended a joint emergency assessment mission to Nimba County led by the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney A. Sirleaf to receive new Ivorian refugees arriving here thru that county.

The joint mission comprised the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees, World Food Programme, International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and UNFPA, among others.

Over the weekend, the team toured Belewalay, Kpablee, Zordru and Buutuo, all in lower Nimba County where the Ivorian refugees recently crossed and are seeking refuge from ongoing political crisis back home.

The emergency joint assessment mission was intended to inspect registration centers, schools, WASH facilities, shelters and border points currently hosting the refugees.

Conveying President George Manneh Weah's message to the refugees, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney A. Sirleaf assured them the Government and People of Liberia will ensure their security is guaranteed during their stay in Liberia.

He said government and partners are working to promptly intervene in critical areas of concern, including medication, schools, safe-drinking water and sanitation for the refugees especially, children.

Minister Sirleaf cautioned the Ivorian refugees to abide by Liberian laws and laws governing refugees, and avoid returning to Ivory Coast to cause problems, adding that any perpetrator caught risk losing their refugee status.

However, he encouraged the refugees to feel free and live away as though they were home, further assuring that nobody would go against them because of their refugee status, and thanked the local inhabitants for being receptive.

The Minister recalled that when Liberians fled home to Ivory Coast in the 90s to seek refuge during civil unrest in Liberia, the Ivorian government accepted them, so the Liberian government is obliged to reciprocate.

UNCHR country director Roseline Okoro said, the entry of Ivorian refugees into Liberia is of grievous concern to the UN. Madam Okoro said since the Ivorian election early this month that resulted to a controversial third term victory for President Alassane Ouattara , thousands of Ivoirians continue to enter Liberia something, she said, is a serious concern to the UNCHR because in all the sectors they need humanitarian response and their needs are enormous.

She disclosed UNICEF has deployed a competent team, and together they are assessing children, looking at malnutrition and sending those with health condition to Seclepea Comprehensive Health Center for treatment.

The Executive Director for the Liberia Refugees, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, Rev. Festus R. B Logan, revealed plan to relocate the Ivorian refugees 50 kilometers away from the Liberian border.

Director Logan said in keeping with international laws, refugees are not to be in close proximity of the border, disclosing that currently, Liberia is already hosting 8,999 Ivorian refugees out 225,000 that fled Ivory Coast in 2010, and with the new arrivals, the number has surged to 9,999 Ivorian refugees.

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