Liberia: UN, EU, GOL Collaborate to Provide Stable Shelter for Ivorian Refugees in Liberia
Bahn, Nimba County – It was moments of joy and celebration in Bahn, Nimba County and Zwedru, Grand County when hundreds of Ivorian refugees and Liberians trooped in their numbers to give a rousing welcome to President George Weah during the official dedication and groundbreaking of several low cost housing units for the refugees and Liberians.
The project is a fruit of a formidable partnership involving the United Nations, the European Union and the Government of Liberia, which is aimed at providing durable and secure shelter for thousands of Ivorian refugees opting to reintegrate in the Liberian society.
At the transformed Bahn Settlement in Nimba County last week, President Weah, as part of his tour of the counties, dedicated 93 housing units with solar electrification, a modern health center, and an elementary and junior high school; while at the PTP Refugee Camp in Zwedru, the President, joined by UNHCR Country Representative, Roseline Okoro and the County officials, broke ground for the construction of a replica of the Bahn housing units for the refugees located at the PTP Local Integration community near Zwedru.
The Bahn Settlement
Out of the 93 housing units, 83 units were implemented by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the Government of Liberia through the African Initiative for Reconstruction and Development (AIRD); while 10 units were constructed with support from the EU Spotlight Initiative through the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and Plan International Liberia. The remaining 15 are expected to be built as part of the support from the EU Spotlight Initiative and will be implemented by the UNFPA and Plan International.
The land was donated by the local residents following the intervention of the government through the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and resettlement Commission (LRRRC).
President Weah thanked UNHCR and the EU for the support to the refugees and pledged his government and its people’s continued generosity towards the refuges as a reciprocal to the care and goodwill accorded Liberians seeking refuge in the Ivory Coast and others parts of the region during the civil war.
Responding to the request made by UNHCR Country Representative, Roseline Okoro, calling for the waiver of integration documentation fees including resident permit and naturalization, President Weah said relevant agencies of government will review the request for a solution that will be in the interest of both refugees and the government.
He called on the refugees to live in peace and harmony with their host community and do away with acts that have the proclivity to lead to violence, cautioning, they should always express their concern and grievances in a peaceful manner for redress.
“We should live in peace. If anyone that you know tells you anything order than peace, you should inform the local government,” he admonished.
“I remember when we were refugees in Côte d’Ivoire…what kept us there was because we were civil. We did not interfere with the governance of the state or try to destabilize the place; and I am sure that is why we spent that long time and up to now so many Liberians have now integrated.”
Speaking earlier, Madam Okoro stressed that the UN is in need of the support of the Government of Liberia and the donor community to find durable and sustainable solutions to the refugees who have decided to make Liberia their home permanently.
“We appeal to the Government of Liberia to continue its generosity and help bring to fruition the refugees’ dream of becoming naturalized Liberian citizens. UNHCR also uses this opportunity to request for a waiver for their documentation fees, as many refugees do not have the means to pay for the documentation required to stay in Liberia legally or permanently,” she said.
She added that the concept of durable shelters is an added effort by the UNHCR Goal #11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as most of the existing refugee shelters had become dilapidated over the years, especially with the incessant raining season.
“For those refugees that made the decision to remain in Liberia, this collaborative effort is to ensure that they have a roof over their head,” adding that it is an effort that has been made possible by various contributions from governments and private donors to UNHCR, including the United States, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and private donors from Spain.
Complementing this effort, she noted, is the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative that provides support to vulnerable women, survivors of violence and female headed households. According to her, the funding provided by the Spotlight Initiative has given them the opportunity to start a new life, it better their fortunes and provide protection for themselves and their children. “We say thank you to the WU/UN Spotlight Initiative and to UNFPA that constructed on their behalf,” she lauded.
Refugees’ Housing Units Modelled after Govt’s PAPD
Also speaking, the Executive Director of the LRRRC, Rev. Festus R. B. Logan said that the construction of the low-cost durable housing units for the refugees and host community is part of the first ever Local Integration Roadmap developed in 2018 by the LRRRC, in collaboration with UNHCR and line ministries and agencies in line with the Government of Liberia’s Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
Rev. Logan noted that the roadmap is intended to construct housing units in Bahn and the transformed PTP Local Integration Community in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
The LRRRC boss, speaking further said that currently, 304 family heads have registered their intention to locally integrate in Bahn; and of this number 75 family heads are expected to benefit while 18 host community families will benefit; leaving an unmet need for 229 family heads.
The Bahn Settlement, he added, is built on 315 acres of land donated by the community and consist of the 93 housing units, solar electrification, a modern health center, elementary and junior high school adapting the Ministry of Education’s academic curriculum.
In addition, he said the government through the LRRRC has acquired an additional 1113.1 acres of land at PTP Camp in Zwedru for the construction of a replica of the Bahn settlement housing units in Grand Gedeh County.
He then called on the international community for more support to build additional housing units as the current ones cannot serve the entire refugee population.