News

Future of Liberian Refugees in Ghana Uncertain

More than 12,000 Liberians still live in Buduburam refugee camp outside Ghana's capital Accra, nearly 20 years after the start of Liberia's long civil war.

Liberian children play at Buduburam camp, East of Accra, Ghana (2005 file photo)
Liberian children play at Buduburam camp, East of Accra, Ghana (2005 file photo)
Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

More than 12,000 Liberians still live in a refugee camp outside Ghana's capital Accra, nearly 20 years after the start of Liberia's long civil war. But some refugees remain and they have concerns about going home.

Walking around the Buduburam refugee camp, it looks more like a thriving neighborhood.  On the main street, music blares out from every direction.  There are no tents, only brightly painted houses along with churches, barber shops, and food stalls.

"On this street people normally meet, to chat and interact with their friends," said Richlue Burphy, a youth leader in the camp.  He is 24 years old and has lived here most of this life.  Recently his family moved back to Liberia, but he stayed in Ghana to finish college.  Walking around, every block, somebody greets Burphy.

When the war in Liberia started, a committee created by the Ghanaian government set aside this land for the incoming refugees.  For two decades, thousands of people have made the Buduburam camp their home. 

Today, the government of Ghana has started building a police and fire station on the refugees' soccer field, leading a lot of people in the camp wonder what will happen next. 

"There are a lot of rumors going around, everyone are on the alert," said Richlue Burphy. "You know, for the notice being short there, everyone of us are conscious about it . But as to where the notice will say we are going, no one can determine that."

The United Nations has moved from handing out food to everyone when the camp was established, to supporting schools and job training in the camp.  Burphy says today refugees mostly rely on themselves or each other to get by.

"Almost everything that you do in the camp involves money," said Burphy. "Most of us do not have source of funding.  So you see us moving from friend house to friend house to see what is there if your friend has something."

More people are returning to Liberia. But that is not an easy choice.  Chairman of the Buduburam Refugee Welfare Committee, Varney Bamolay Sambola says part of it depends on conditions back home.

"Like housing when they get back to Liberia, how do they deal with housings?  There must be room to create a cordial atmosphere between the locals, because some of them made you to leave the country.  Maybe they would not want you to see them, they would not want you to expose them, they can eliminate you," said Sambola.

Even though it is hard to go back, Sambola says people cannot be refugees forever.  He says one day the international community will decide they are no longer eligible for help.

"They will come officially, they will say look, those conditions that made you to leave Liberia do not exist in Liberia any longer.  Therefore you cannot claim to be a refugee any longer," he said.

The United Nations is helping people move back to Liberia, if they want to.  Nearly 8,000 already have.  Now there are signs posted in the camp saying the rest of the refugees will be moved to different parts of Ghana.  But Lisa Quarshie of the U.N. refugee agency, says nothing is decided yet.

"For now we are waiting on the government of Ghana to basically make a decision on the future of Buduburam camp.  We will look at it in context of how it benefits the refugees, and we will go along with that," she said.

But one thing is for sure, most refugees do not want to stay in Ghana, even if they are moved out of the camp.  Burphy says a big problem is the language barrier between Ghanaians and Liberians.

"Even when we want to buy from them, we do a lot of sign language.  You point at the thing you want.  Maybe you take the quantity you want.  You give the money they give your change.  So whether you are getting the right change you do not know," said Burphy.

Many refugees hope to migrate to a Western country, where they think it will be easier to make money, before returning to Liberia permanently. In the end, Burphy says the final destination for him will be Liberia.

"You feel that if I am going through such hardship, it is better I can better endure it if I am home, where I will have a lot of family members around me," said Burphy. "Someone who you can sit down and explain your problems to and they understand you, than someone who you try to talk to and then they do not even understand you."

Burphy is waiting to finish his university education before he moves back to Liberia.  He says he needs to prepare before he takes the big step. 
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs