From all indications, Liberians who have until now remained camped at the Oru Refugee Camp in Nigeria, said they are now ready to come home, no matter the odds.
The refugees gave the assurance recently when Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Al-Hassan Conteh, visited the Oru Refugee Camp in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, to celebrate Liberia’s Independence Day with them and at the same time assess their situation.
According to a release from the Liberian Embassy in Nigeria, the secretary of the Liberian Refugee Association at the Oru Camp, Alphonso Zlawea, who welcomed Ambassador Conteh and entourage, said there were 315 remaining Liberian refugees at the camp since the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugee (UNHCR) officially ended the refugee program worldwide for Liberians.
The release quotes Mr. Zlawea as telling Amb. Conteh that life has been difficult for the Liberian refugees, who were not repatriated by the UNHCR, because of difficulties with meeting various documentation requirements.
The Chair of the Association, Edwin Taylor, said that he and his compatriots, many of them women and children, are now ready to go home.
“Life has been rough for us since the repatriation program ended. The camp was partitioned, but many of us have now acquired skills and assets that we are now prepared to take home to continue our lives under our new government,” he informed Amb. Conteh.
One of the refugees, John Gono, said he had acquired education as a marine engineer, under-water welder, and ship builder. He spoke of his preparedness to return home to help the government with its reconstruction drive.
Ambassador Conteh, who had just installed the newly elected officers of the Organization of Liberian Communities in Nigeria, at their 2018 National Convention and celebration of Liberia’s 171st Independence, paid homage to the Governor and people of Ogun State, especially the custodians of the land hosting the refugees.
He requested the Chair of the group to send him the profiles of the 315 refugees currently residing at the camp for onward transmission for the consideration of the Liberian government.
Amb. Conteh promised to make a case on their behalf to the relevant authorities of the Liberian government, including the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) for their repatriation in due course.
The UNHCR registered about 5,000 Liberian refugees in Nigeria at the height of the Liberian civil war of 1989 to 2003, the release recalls.
But the agency repatriated some of the refugees in phases in collaboration with the Government of Nigeria, the LRRRC and the former Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), now the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS). Many of the former refugees opted to be integrated in Nigeria, while some wanted to be repatriated to available third countries at the time.
With the assistance of the Government of Japan and the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the Liberian Embassy in Abuja had also repatriated 285 refugees between 2012 and 2013. This was out of 500 of them who had applied for repatriation.
The release recalls that between 2007 and 2008, the UNHCR, in collaboration with the Liberian Embassy and the Nigerian Commission for Refugees, came up with a three-way solution to the problem for Liberian refugees.
According to the release, the first of the three options was repatriation, the second was integration, and the third was relocation to a third country under the supervision of the UNHCR.
As of June 30, 2012, the UNHCR officially ended the statuses of Liberian and Angolan refugees the world over after cessation clauses were entered into force for what was considered the “two most protracted refugee situations in Africa.”
This, according to the UNHCR then, was on the basis that both countries had enjoyed many years of peace and stability after their respective bitter civil wars.