UNHCR has resumed the voluntary repatriation of tens of thousands of Ivorian refugees from Liberia.
The return had been interrupted for more than a year by the deadly Ebola outbreak. Some 11,000 of the 38,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberian camps have said they wish to return immediately.
A convoy carrying about 244 people, set off from the coastal town of Harper, in eastern Liberia, for nearby Tabou, in south-western Côte d’Ivoire, taking a ferry to cross the river border.
A second convoy, carrying 401 people, left PTP camp in Grand Gedeh County for Toulepleu in western Côte d’Ivoire. Toulepleu is also located close to the border, about 300 kilometres to the north of Tabou.
Two more convoys are planned before the end of the year, bringing the expected number of returnees by end-2015 to more than 1,000 people.
The convoys will pass along special humanitarian corridors because the borders are still closed. The returns will continue in January, with road repairs planned to improve access.
HELP BACK HOME
UNHCR will help the returnees reintegrate in their homeland with income-generation programmes, training and start-up aid. The Côte d’Ivoire government has put in place a number of programmes to help the returnees regain access to their lands and for children to get access to education.
Some 300,000 people fled the violence that followed presidential elections in November 2010 in Côte d’Ivoire, including more than 200,000 who fled to neighbouring Liberia. The crisis ended in April 2011 following a political settlement that confirmed Alassane Ouattara as president.
The voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees started in late 2012. While UNHCR facilitated the return of some 40,000 refugees from Liberia, an additional 160,000 are believed to have returned on their own.
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa last year caused the closure of the land border between Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring Liberia and Guinea, forcing UNHCR and its partners to suspend the repatriation operation in July 2014.
No Ivorian refugee in Liberia has contracted Ebola and robust prevention measures have been implemented in the camps since the outbreak began in March 2014.