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Liberia Says Ghana Agrees to Hold Off on Refugee Repatriation for a Year

A week ago the Liberian government sent a high power delegation to Ghana, headed by the foreign minister to discuss with the Ghanaian government about the plight of Liberian refugees in Ghana. The refugees had been demonstrating for weeks to demand from the United Nations refugee agency funds for their repatriation or resettlement. About 600 them, mostly women who were arrested detained by Ghanaian authorities while protesting are now said to have been released.

Tuesday, the Liberian government is expected to inform its citizens about the outcome of the delegation’s trip to Ghana. Information minister Lawrence Bropleh told VOA the delegation’s mission to Ghana was a fruitful one.

“What we were able to accomplish was to at least get the Ghanaian government not to send droves of Liberians back to Liberia immediately. And a tripartite committee has been established between the Liberian government and the Ghanaian government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This would be able to manifest the process, and we are hopeful that within the next 12 months of so will be a gradual draw down on the number of Liberians that will be voluntarily repatriated to Liberia,” he said.

Two weeks ago Ghanaians authorities arrested and detained about 600 of the refugees from the Buduburam Refugee camp near Accra because the government said the refugees were demonstrating in violation of the country’s Public Order Act.

Bropleh said the Liberian government delegation was able to get the Ghanaian government to release the 600 Liberian refugees that were being detained.

“Our government expressed serious concern about the conditions of that environment where our people were kept,” Bropleh said.

The Ghanaian government reportedly told the Liberian delegation that it wanted repatriation of the refugees to begin as early as April this month. Bropleh confirmed the Ghanaian government had expressed this concern. But he said the delegation was able to convince the government to hold off on any deportation.

“The intervention of our high level delegation headed by the foreign minister was able to reach an agreement. So there will not be an immediacy of the return of the Liberian refugees. But there will be a gradual draw down while we plan and strategize to receive our citizens,” he said.

Bropleh denied the Liberian government was trying to buy time.

“We are very serious. We have been able to share with our citizens there, and they do agree with us that returning to Liberia is the only viable option for them, that going to a third country is not a viable option. And so all the refugees have agreed that they will come home and they are ready to come home. We now have to work with the UNHCR, we have to work with our international partners to be able to find the way that we can all put together to help us pay for this process in getting our people back home and helping to rebuild their lives as they come to help rebuild Liberia,” Bropleh said.