News / Africa

UN Starts Voluntary Repatriation of Ivory Coast Refugees

Children sit outside their family's tent as a neighbor bathes her son in a camp housing more than 2,600 Ivorian refugees, with more arriving daily, in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)
Children sit outside their family's tent as a neighbor bathes her son in a camp housing more than 2,600 Ivorian refugees, with more arriving daily, in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)

The United Nations has begun the first voluntary repatriation of Ivory Coast refugees from neighboring Liberia. Hundreds of thousands of Ivorians had crossed the border to flee their country's violent post-election crisis. The refugees are starting to stream home now that security conditions are improving in western Ivory Coast.

The numbers are small, but their direction is encouraging. Forty-five families are the first to voluntarily leave Liberia and return to Ivory Coast through the U.N. refugee agency.

They are at a transit center in the Ivorian town of Toulepleu after leaving Liberia's Solo refugee camp. It is one of six camps established over the last eight months to house refugees from the political crisis between Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo.

Agreement forged

The U.N. refugee agency's Sulaiman Momolu said the voluntary repatriation follows an agreement between the United Nations and the governments of Liberia and Ivory Coast.

“UNHCR is not promoting returns. That is we are not going out to the camps and say, 'Oh, it's time to go back home.' We are far from that yet. What we are doing is to facilitate in line with that tripartite agreement that was signed," said Momolu. "You want to go, you register with our colleagues in the field. You write down your name. You go through the processes, and then you go.”

Momolu said camp officials check with their colleagues in Ivory Coast to make sure that it is safe in the areas where these refugees are returning.

Ivorian refugees walk at a camp housing more than 2,600 people displaced by fighting in Western Ivory Coast, in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)
Ivorian refugees walk at a camp housing more than 2,600 people displaced by fighting in Western Ivory Coast, in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)

“The main areas of return are Blolekin, Toulepleu, Duekoue, and Guiglo. So as long as we have people who are returning, who are expressing their desire to return, we will cross-check those areas where they want to return,” said Momolu.

Challenges remain

While these are the first official refugee returns through the U.N., Ivorian refugees have been returning on their own since April when fighters backing President Ouattara captured Gbagbo, who had refused to give up power after losing last year's election.

Refugee camps farther north along the border are winding down as mostly pro-Ouattara civilians return home. The problem is farther south, where most of the refugees are Gbagbo supporters, many of whom say they are afraid to return because the Ouattara fighters who chased them from their homes are now part of the new national army.

An Ivorian girl walks among tents in a camp housing Ivorian refugees in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)
An Ivorian girl walks among tents in a camp housing Ivorian refugees in Solo Town, near Zwedrou, Liberia, May 2011. (file photo)

Momolu said some of the refugees are returning for the start of the school year, others in preparation for next month's legislative vote.

“Some are saying, 'Well, we have to go because we can't get jobs here. We were working before and we want to go back and get our jobs.' Others say, 'Well, parliamentary elections are coming up. Our people out there who want to contest are encouraging us to go back and vote,'” said Momolu.

Relief workers in Ivory Coast say one of the biggest challenges facing returning refugees is a shortage of housing.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid