Sierra Leonean Refugees in Liberia Protest Over ‘Abandonment’
Monrovia – Several aggrieved Sierra Leoneans residing in Liberia have staged a peaceful protest calling on authorities of the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Liberia Refugees Repatriation Resettlement and Reintegration Commission (LRRRC) to determine their status and ensure their return to their country.
The aggrieved Sierra Leonean nationals staged the peaceful protest before the premises of the United Nations offices in Sinkor, Monrovia, during the morning hours of Wednesday.
They held placards with inscriptions: “LRRRC give us our status, seeking refuge in Liberia, is it a crime, we do not have a place called home,” among others.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Frontpage Africa, the Sierra Leoneans refugees under the banner: Abandoned Sierra Leonean Refugees in Liberia claimed that for too long they have resided in Liberia, without knowing their status permanently.
According to the group’s Spokesperson, Bernard Freeman Sheriff, Sierra Leonean refugees have resided in Liberia from 1991 to present.
He claimed that more than 550 Sierra Leonean refugees have allegedly been abandoned as per the Refugee Status Determination (RSD).
He stated that though some refugees have resolved to be integrated locally, nothing has been done by the Liberian government to address their status.
Mr. Sheriff added that the refugees continue to experience numerous challenges, including the lack of shelter.
As a result of this, he maintained, that most refugees are exposed to illnesses.
“We are here to create concern on the abandonment that is being meted on Sierra Leonean refugees by the Liberian government, through LRRRC. We have been abandoned for the past 14 years now. We have all have I. D cards from the United Nations,” he stated
“Good number of us came here since 1991. About 300 to 400 of us came here during the war in our country. We have about 372 persons that opted for the local integration; but that has not done. They are left abandoned with no house, no benefits, and no document.
Constraints associated with the situation
The Sierra Leonean refugees appear to be encountering enormous challenges as a result of the situation.
According to Mr. Sheriff, Sierra Leonean refugees that opted to be reintegrated locally, are denied to register or obtain National Identification Cards in Liberia.
He disclosed that the movement of the refugees is being restricted on a regular basis, while access to better healthcare delivery remains uncertain.
Mr. Sheriff noted that refugees and their children are not accorded the opportunity to acquire education.
At the same time, the Sierra Leonean refugees residing in Liberia have advanced several demands to authorities of the LRRRC and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Mr. Sheriff pointed that the UNHCR must help provide asylum opportunities for Sierra Leonean refugees that do not want to return home for political and other reasons.
He noted that government and the UN must also dignified the living conditions of Sierra Leonean refugees that resolved to stay in Liberia by providing them the basic necessities of life, including clothing, medical and education opportunities.
He, however, pledged that the refugees would continuously stage protests in the capital if nothing is done to address their concern.
Laws and protocols on refugees’ protection
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
The Convention also provides for some visa-free travel for holders of refugee travel documents issued under the convention.
The Refugee Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
It states that, a refugee may enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Geneva Convention.
Freedom to practice their religion, the respect and protection of artistic rights and industrial property, access to education, and public relief and assistance for refugees are also enshrined in the Convention.
It also calls for refugees to be treated like non-nationals in relation to movable and immovable property, the right of association in unions or other associations, wage-earning employment, self-employment, practice of the liberal professions, as well as the provision of housing, and education higher than elementary, and the right to free movement and free choice of residence within the country.