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Last Updated: 11/16/2004A drizzly but hopeful day in Buduburum
Theresa, one of the would-be returnees to Liberia, is a middle-aged woman whose difficult life experiences show through in the lines etched on her face. She was forced to leave her country four years ago due to the ongoing violence there and has lived in exile in Ghana ever since.
Joanna Gaughan reports from Buduburum, Ghana..
Difficult decisions for Displaced Liberians
is a drizzly, dreary day in Buduburum refugee camp, yet the rain can not dampen
the spirits of nearly a hundred of the camp s inhabitants as they begin to
gather in a cement block school building.
As relief workers distribute hundreds of blue plaid bags, exilees carting
wheelbarrows full of clothing and other belongings arrive at the school and
hurriedly start packing in preparation for a return to their home country of
of the would-be returnees, is a middle-aged Liberian woman whose difficult life
experiences show through in the lines etched on her face. She was forced to leave her country four
years ago due to the ongoing violence there and has lived in exile in
ask Theresa whether she is concerned about the challenges she will face when she
returns to her country. She replies
that she is aware of the risks involved in returning but is sure that living
One of the purposes of UNHCR is to assist groups of people who have had to flee their home countries due to violence and civil unrest. Towards this end, the agency works in conjunction with a variety of NGOs to ensure that the basic material needs of such people (who may or may not meet the legal definition of refugee ) are met. Yet both the agency s mandate and its resources are limited, so when it has been determined that a particular country of origin is safe for return, UNHCR can no longer provide material aid to exilees from that country. This has been the case for those living at Buduburum, the vast majority of whom have received no aid from UNHCR since 2000.
these reasons, UNHCR is conducting a major repatriation drive with the goal of
facilitating the return of 100,000 of the 340,000 Liberian exilees currently
living in ECOWAS countries by December of this year. One hundred such
persons, including Theresa, are leaving tomorrow on a flight organized by UNHCR
as part of this repatriation campaign. Yet despite this push for displaced
Liberians to return home, Jehu-Hoyah emphasizes that repatriation is entirely
voluntary and that UNHCR is presenting would-be returnees with all the facts so
that they can make informed decisions about whether to return.
That s my home, even though they kill people, she says.
Joanna Gaughan graduated from the University for Peace with a master’s degree in International Law and Human Rights. She is currently an Amnesty International Patrick Stewart Human Rights Fellow and is working in Ghana with the organization Journalists for Human Rights.