Some refugees in Nigeria shun voluntary repatriation

Oru- Nigeria (PANA) -- Some Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria have attributed their seeming reluctance to return home to inadequate incentives, loss of loved ones, insecurity back home and pursuit of education.
Since 2004, when the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, launched a voluntary repatriation programme for the thousands of refugees, barely 670 of them have returned home.
Over 5,000 Liberian refugees remain at the Oru camp, some 120km north of Nigeria's commercial city of Lagos.
The slow response have forced UNHCR to set a deadline of June 2007 for those willing to take advantage of its repatriation programme, after which those returning home would have to pay their way.
The agency has also threatened to stop all forms of assistance to the refugees by December 2006 In addition to ferrying refugees back home under the programme, each returnee is also given between 1,500 naira (US$11) and 3,000 naira (US$22).
"People feel reluctant because they still think things have not normalised (back home)," a Liberian refugee, who simply identified himself as Kar, told PANA at the camp.
"For me I am still studying the situation.
If you say you are encouraging voluntary repatriation, there has to be good incentives put in place, not the little amount they are giving out," he added.
Another refugee, Muhammed Jalloh, said among the Sierra Leonean Community, which constitute the second largest group after the Liberians, many still feel insecure to return home, while others do not see any reason to go because of their personal loss.
Corroborating Jalloh's stance, a 31-year-old mother, Mamie Massaquole, said: "Go back to where? During the war in Sierra Leone, I lost five brothers and a sister.
I have not seen my father and mother since then.
I don't have anybody or house to return to.
" She appealed to UNHCR to change its decision to stop all forms of assistance to them from December.
"In my own case I have serious health problem which require medical attention.
In this camp we have several orphans that need help.
They should help us," she pleaded.
"I have just completed a diploma programme in Mass Communication.
I have started my degree programme, which will take me some more three years, so I cannot abandon it now," explained Nicholas Nimley, another Liberian refugee.
In a memo to the refugees, UNHCR said it would apply the cessation clause for the Liberian and Sierra Leoneans in the camp.
Under the clause, all forms of assistance such as sponsorship for secondary education, vocational training, micro credit support and production assistance will be cut off.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has placed posters at strategic locations within the 16-year-old camp as part of efforts to mobilise Liberians to return home.
"Liberians, our beloved country, Liberia needs us.
Let's go home and contribute in rebuilding her," reads one of the posters.

04 september 2006 09:25:00

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