LRRRC, UNHCR, Partners Upgrade Status Of Ivorian Refugees

-Dedicate 93 Durable Housing Units With Electricity, Others

By Reuben Sei Waylaun

Bahn, Nimba County: Ivorian refugees in the Republic of Liberia have all reasons to smile after a ‘complete upgrade’ of their current status, especially through durable housing units and huge improvement in their livelihoods in the country.

On Wednesday February 17, 2021, the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) with support from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and other partners dedicated 93 durable housing units for refugees in the Bahn Refugee Camp in Nimba County.

The Bahn Refugees camp is now transformed to the Bahn Settlement with 93 durable units with solar electrification, a modern health center, elementary and junior high adapting the Ministry of Education’s academic curriculum on 315 acres of land freely given by the people of Nimba County.

Beneficiaries of the 93 durable housing units are those refugees who had been locally integrated and citizens living in host communities in Bahn, Nimba County.

Speaking at the dedicatory ceremony, the Executive Director of LRRRC, Rev. Festus Logan reminded Liberians and partners of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of Refugees which calls for the international protection of refugees, enacted into law the LRRRC and domesticated in 1993 by the Liberian National Transitional Assembly.

Rev. Logan said although the LRRRC has registered 25,901 new arrival of Ivorian nationals between September 2020 and January 2021, but they had been working with an old caseload of 8,170 Ivorian refugees from 224, 000 that arrived 2010.

“Of that number, some opted for local integration into Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties. As a result of that, in 2018, the LRRRC and UNHCR working with other ministries and agencies and partners developed the first ever local integration roadmap in line with the Government of Liberia Pro poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PADP) pillar one,” he said.

Rev. Logan added “What we witnessing today is part of the roadmap that is intended to construct durable housing units in Bahn, Nimba and PTP, Grand Gedeh Counties for refugees who have opted to be locally integrated including citizens of Liberia. Here in Nimba, the total of 83 housing units were implemented by UNHCR in collaboration with the Government of Liberia through the African Initiative Reconstruction and Development (AIRD) valued at US$650,000.00. Also, an additional 10 units were funded and constructed by the European Union under the Spotlight Initiative by UNFPA through Plan Liberia valued at US$90,000.00.”

“Currently 304 family heads have registered their intention to locally integrate in Bahn, Nimba County. Of this number, 75 family heads are expected to benefit, while 18 host community families will benefit, leaving an unmet need for 229 family heads. It is worth noting here that beneficiaries of these housing units are 80% integrating Ivorian refugees while 20% vulnerable host community members,” he added.

For her part, the Country Representative of the UNHCR, Ms. Roseline Okoro thanked the government and people of Liberia for the cooperation especially their generosity and hospitality toward the refugees for giving them access to the territory of the country.

Madam Okoro said “UNHCR remains firmly committed to its partnership with the Government of Liberia. We have demonstrated this commitment in various ways.  During 2017, with the closure of the settlement clinic, UNHCR provided support to Bahn Health Centre through the construction of an entire ward and supported it with medicines and also provided an ambulance and WASH services. During the same year, the Bahn Refugee School was handed over to the government of Liberia. Today, the refugee and the Liberian children are attending the school together, but forming lifelong friendship,” Ms. Roseline Okoro said in a statement.

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Basil Titu, the Refugees Representative thanked the LRRRC, UNHCR and partners for the durable housing units and assured the Liberian Government that they will continue to abide by the rules and regulations governing the nation.

The locally integrated refugees expressed happiness to the UNHCR and LRRRC for the efforts in getting them integrated into the Liberian Society. They gowned President Weah for protections provided them.

At the same time, a Representative of the European Union said “I am proud to be here to witness what Liberia is giving back to the Ivorian refugees. Liberians underwent similar problems in Guinea and Ivory Coast. Thank you Liberia for giving back.”

Internal Affairs Minister, Varney A. Sirleaf who is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the LRRRC recounted that the construction and dedication of the housing units was what he communicated in Geneva.

“The idea of pro poor housing was exactly what I communicated in Geneva and this is what you are seeing here today. We thank the people of Nimba County for the land. Our people of Nimba have been so good to the refugees. Anytime the refugees are leaving, the housing units will to go to the local community.”

President George Weah speaking at the ceremony said “I remembered when we were refugees in Ivory Coast. What kept us in Ivory Coast was that we were civil. We had rights. It’s your choice to stay in Liberia or to leave. We will be going through borders to settle disputes and I spoke with President Outarra and we discussed the peace of our people.”

“We have rules and regulations in this country and those who want to become citizens must follow same. If there is no money, we will help, but we will work with our lawmakers to give you status. We don’t want trouble in our country. Anyone who tells you some things different other than peace, you need to refrain from such person. We want to thank our partners for these housing units,” President Weah said.

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