Repatriation in Liberia and Sudan hit by funding shortfalls – UN refugee

“The paradox here is that donors are always anxious to see these solutions get off the ground, but we can’t do that without first buying trucks, building transit centres, digging water wells, reconstructing schools and all of the other preparatory work that must be done months before the arrival of the first returnees,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva.In Liberia, where spontaneous returnees have been arriving by the thousands after a peace accord last year ended nearly 15 years of civil war, UNHCR has received only $3 million of the $39.2 million it has sought for 2004 while returnees have become stranded in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) as their home areas are not yet deemed safe. “The returnees in the IDP camps live in miserable conditions as food, water and medical facilities are insufficient for new arrivals. We need funding,” Mr. Redmond said. With optimism at the new peace in their homeland running high among Liberian refugees abroad, more groups of spontaneous returnees are expected to flock in during the year from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ghana, he added. For Sudan, Africa’s largest country where a potential peace accord in the two-decades old war between the government and rebels in the south is expected to lead to a flood of returnees, UNHCR has so far received only $3 million of the $8.8 million it is seeking for preparatory activities for voluntary repatriation and reintegration. “Large expenses have already been incurred by the pre-positioning of domestic items, and deployment of an emergency team, light vehicles and telecom equipment,” Mr. Redmond said. At the two-day Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa held last month in Geneva, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said as many as 5 million people could soon return to their homelands – the continent’s biggest return movement in a decade – as nine conflicts come to an end or diminish in intensity. Mr. Redmond said that beyond the special appeals for Liberia and Sudan a supplementary appeal will be released soon for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while operations for the six other countries are funded under UNHCR’s regular budget.

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