By Joseph N.N.Swen, Accra Bureau Chief
Having spent a little over 17 years in an allocated and recognized camp as a result of the 14 years of brutal rebel incursion in Liberia which saw over 200,000 innocent civilians killed, Liberians in Ghana status is yet to be determined by the UN refugee agency(UNHCR) and the Government of the Republic of Ghana.
Anxiously concerned about the importance of the UHNCR/Ghana Refugee Board 2003 issued Identification Card to more than 42,000 Liberians is the specific reference to the statement at the back of the Card which says, “This card is for registration of asylum seekers. This card neither confers nor implies recognition of refugees’ status under international or domestic law.”
“This card does not entitle the holder to any individual benefit from either UNHCR or the Government of the
She said Liberians who are in
Also commenting on an issue raised about an envisaged integration of the remaining Liberians into the Ghanaian society, she said, “Before anyone is to benefit from any of the three (3) durable solutions, which are Resettlement to a third country of asylum, voluntary repatriation back to home country and local integration, said person has to be firstly recognized as a Refugee”, the UNHCR has no jurisdiction to decide on the issue of local integration, instead, it is the Ghana Government.
Some of the mountain of questions and concerns which erupted included statements such as, If the UNHCR statement of being granted Refugee Status before benefiting for either of the three(3) durable solutions and that the ID card is for registration purpose and doesn’t grant any holder a Refugee status, why are Liberians being voluntarily repatriated using those I.D.Cards?
Secondly, why is the camp officially referred to as the Buduburam Refugee Camp? Every communication sent for residents, is addressed as Refugees, these are two of the three durable solutions.
Also commenting on the statement from the UNHCR, the head of the 15 counties Heads, E. Madison Gwion said, “For us in
Mr. Gwion commented on the discouraged incentive or package that is given to Voluntary repatriated Liberians. “Liberians love their country, but need to be empowered, people seen around here are people who do not see it fit to be repatriated”, he added.
Some of the common strand of issues from almost every speaker as well as interviewees, was the fact that refugees having spent over 17 years in Ghana and not benefiting meaningfully like those who sought refuge in other countries around the World, of what use would they be should they be forced to return to Liberia or integrate in local Ghanaian communities?
The refugees say they do not feel safe enough to return to their homeland even though there is an elected government there now and as such, they are pleading with the UNHCR and the International Community to resettle Liberians in some developed countries to better up their lives as well as our children academic future before returning to Liberian should there be total security in every length and breadth of the Country.
Sekou Ben Kaba, representing one of the most vibrant intellectual groups in the refugee camp had this question for UNHCR and the Ghanaian government. “When will our status be granted by the UNHCR and Ghana Refugee Board, having spent 17 years in
The Spokesperson of the Liberian Elder Council, a mediation elders grouping at the Settlement, Elder Kollie who also serves as the Disciplinary and Arbitration Coordinator of the Liberian Refugee Welfare Council, boldly stated, “Liberians in Ghana do not need to be locally integrated rather ,we need to be resettled. We the Elders are pleading to the UNHCR and others responsible, to resettle us”.
Coupled with the numerous comments made during and after the meeting, the unfavorable statements from the UNHCR Representative, a subsequent one hour peaceful demonstration was held at the Settlement by a conglomeration of the Liberian Women Organizations.
As the father and leader of the over 40,000 at the moment confused Liberians at the Settlement, the Chairman of the Liberian Refugee Welfare Council, Varney B. Sambollah III, said, “We are not betrayals, we at the Council representing you are here to appeal to the UNHCR and its partners to abide by some of the necessities of the Liberians. The people interest should be put first.”
Currently, residents are seen gathered into separate groups discussing issues concerning their wellbeing and future in exile.