By Joseph N.N. Swen, Buduburam/Accra Bureau
Non-repatriating Liberian refugees in Ghana are to be relocated into sub-groupings in various parts of Ghana to effect the official closure of the Buduburam Refugee Settlement, ensuring that the Settlement returns to its pre-refugee status of a Ghanaian Community, a place which has been the Refugees’ home since 1990 due to the 14 years of brutal civil unrest in Liberia
This was made known by Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Ghana’s Interior Minister when he chaired a tripartite committee meeting held on the 31st of October, 2008 with Ambulai Johnson, Liberia’s Interior Minister and Madam Aida Haila Mariam, High Commissioner of UNHCR-Ghana in attendance.
This is a Committee charged with the responsibility of spearheading the voluntary repatriation process of Liberian Refugees which began in April 2008 and will run up to the end of March, next year.
Dr. Addo-Kufour said the relocation exercise will come into effect in March, 2009, but a general verification process will be held come January, 2009 for those Liberians who do not desire returning back to their home Country. The pronouncement also indicated that those to be relocated would be granted the status in accordance with the Ghanaian and the Sub-regional standard of an African Refugee.
On the part of the Liberian government, the Liberian Interior Minister said the Government of Liberia is innovating numerous and favorable opportunities to receive its citizens and to enable them be easily adjusted in the Country, irrespective of the challenges the Country is faced with.
The Government is also pleased that the Committee has seriously expressed concern and consideration of creating avenues that would enable returning Liberians take back home most of their possessions as against the handful of possession they are forced to return with presently.
Consequently, such news has unsettled the already mixed sentimental residents and has become the topic of discussion at almost every gathering in and around the Settlement among Liberians.
However, most of those disturbed by such topical news are those yet to decide as to whether they are returning and have started expressing their strongest emotion against such process.
Some said though they have not been told the areas to which they would be relocated, they might be going to start from scratch… such as returning to sleeping in tents as it was during the inception of Buduburam before building their own houses.
What will happen to those in the various schools in and outside the Settlement and what will happen if one decides to remain here at the Settlement are questions some residents are also concerned with.
Though the UNHCR-Ghana is yet to officially comment on those concerns after the Tripartite Committee Meeting, it reported that up to 8,000 Liberian Refugees have returned since April 2008 as a result of the five week peaceful demonstration organized by a group of Liberian Refugee Women, calling themselves, Liberian Refugee Women for Refugee Concern… during which time they demonstrated for an improvement in the
voluntary repatriation process package or a resettlement to a third country of asylum on the 15th of February to 20th, 2008.