Minister Sirleaf Advocates Support for Refugees In Liberia
The Minister of Internal Affairs and Board Chairman of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Honorable Varney A. Sirleaf, has called for more support to Liberia as it caters to a refugee caseload of about 9,454 Ivorian refugees residing in camps in Liberia.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that quotes a dispatch from Geneva, Switzerland, Minister Sirleaf made the plea last week Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, in a paper he presented on the Liberia Refugee situation at the sixty nine Session of the UNHCR General Assembly Meeting.Other members of the high-power Liberian delegation headed by Minister Sirleaf, include the Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Rev. Festus R. B. Logan.
The Internal Affairs Minister, who is the Board Chairman of the LRRRC, explained that of this number, 800 refugees have opted to be integrated into the Liberian society, thereby enabling them the right to obtain Liberian citizenship, which is guaranteed under the refugee protocol.
Minister Sirleaf noted that the Liberian Government has already secured 310 acres of land in one of the refugee hosting areas to support the local integration program for those opting to live in Liberia.
He however requested the UNHCR and other partners, to assist with the construction of quality, durable, and modern housing units for the refugees similar to President Weah’s proposed low cost housing project, adding that despite the collaboration and support of UNHCR-Liberia, more was needed to be done.
In the statement, the Minister disclosed that the Government of Liberia continues to allow persons fleeing persecution to seek asylum in Liberia. “In 2018, of the 33 asylum applications in the country, 5 have been granted refugee status”. He said.
He assured that his Government, under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah is aiming at continuing the efforts of past governments by fostering the peace process towards national reconciliation, through a well-envisioned Liberia’s development plan, the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development in which the refugee program is fully aligned.
Honorable Sirleaf told the UNHCR that as a mark of the commitment of the Liberian Government, President Weah on July 26, 2018, Independence Day of Liberia, achieved a major milestone when he issued Certificates of Naturalization to 375 former Sierra Leonean Refugees; and is in the process of completing the civil documentation for the residual caseload of 1,101 former Sierra Leonean Refugees living in Liberia.
He said over the past years, Liberia has made great gains in providing durable solutions to refugees, asylum seekers and other persons of concern (POC) living in Liberia.
The Minister boasted that refugee services which traditionally were handled by the UNHCR, have now been integrated into the national development framework, wherein both Liberians and refugees have access to the same services. “These services include Health, Education and Social Protection”. He emphasized.
Minister Sirleaf noted that amidst global challenges in providing sustainable durable solutions for the refugee cause, the Government of Liberia has shown 100% goodwill to support Durable Solutions, including Local Integration, for any refugee living in Liberia.
The Internal Affairs Minister said steps have been taken to develop a comprehensive national Local Integration Strategy to promote assimilation and peaceful co-existence for all refugees who will opt to integrate in Liberia.
He stated that President Weah’s Administration remains committed to improving existing domestic legal norms, one of which is the ongoing revision of the 1973 Alien and Nationality Laws (ANL).
This law restricts Liberian women passing their nationality to their children, noting that once amended and passed into law by Parliament, it will be a positive step towards preventing statelessness in Liberia.
He also made reference to efforts being made to domesticate international legal instruments which include conventions relating to Stateless Persons and the 2009 Kampala African Union Convention on Internal displacement.
Meanwhile in response to the report presented by the Liberian Government, Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner of the UNHCR praised Liberia for its achievements, noting that the UNHCR was proud of Liberia’s progress as a success story after years of civil war.
He promised that the UNHCR would work closely with Government for the wellbeing of refugees in the Country, adding that the 69th session of the Executive Committee meeting of the UNHCR comes at a time when global forced displacement has climbed to an unprecedented 68.5 million, including 25.4 million refugees and 40 million internally displaced people.
According to him, Liberia is among over 132 countries that are participating the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting.
Meanwhile, a high level meeting involving heads of government delegations focused on the Ivorian refugee situation is expected on the margins of the Assembly shortly. According to statistics, Liberia hosts the highest number of Ivorian refugees in the West African sub-region.