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Stranded Liberian Migrants Return Home from Neighbouring West African Countries

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, November 19, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A group of 353 Liberian migrants stranded in Ghana is returning home by air through the end of this month, thanks to an IOM voluntary return programme.

The movements, in groups of 50, are part of a regional project spanning West Africa, which aims to assist more than 2,000 Liberian nationals who were not registered with UNHCR or national agencies as refugees following the country's civil conflict (1989-2003), and therefore do not qualify for return assistance or local integration as part of the refugee cessation clause of June 2012.

With the support from the Government of Japan, IOM missions in Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea, have helped a total of 1,577 individuals to return to Liberia since 31 March 2013 (835 from Ghana, 286 from Nigeria, 149 from Sierra Leone, and 307 from Guinea.)

To implement the programme, IOM partnered with the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), the Liberian Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and Liberian embassies in the region.

Visiting Budumburam camp in Ghana, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan Dr. Yoshihiko Higuchi met with Liberian nationals preparing for their departure to Liberia. “The visit gave me the opportunity to interact with the stranded Liberians who have been away from home for a long time and are finally going home. It was a great pleasure to see first-hand the impact that support from Japan has had on their ability to start a new life,” he said.

IOM, LRRRC, BIN and Liberian embassies have conducted assessments of stranded migrant populations and verification procedures in the region. Targeted information and awareness campaigns were also organized to inform stranded Liberians about the opportunity for them to return home safely.

Ahead of the returns, IOM and Liberian embassies worked in tandem to provide travel documents. IOM then provided the returnees with pre-departure orientation and medical checks, followed by air transport to Monrovia.

IOM also established a mobile reception centre at Liberia's international airport in Monrovia to welcome returning migrants. Returnees are met by an airport assistance team and provided with a small cash grant and money for onward transportation to their home communities. Those who contact LRRRC when they arrive home in their community may qualify for additional national assistance programmes.