Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Liberia grants citizenship to 2,600 Sierra Leone refugees

image BENSONVILLE, Liberia (AFP) - Liberia is granting citizenship to 2,600 Sierra Leonean refugees who chose to stay in the country after the end of a 10-year civil war back home, a government official said on Tuesday.

The refugees, who will go through a process of naturalisation, started receiving portions of farmland this week being dished out at Bensonville, 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the capital.

Gotomo Gordon, a Liberian government official in charge of repatriation and resettlement of refugees, said the decision to resettle the refugees was taken after a voluntary repatriation programme ended in 2004.

There were some who did not want to go back home for various reasons such as having married in Liberia or having lost all their families to the war back home.

"And so we thought (of) ... a durable solution by facilitating their reintegration into our society," Gordon told AFP.

Both Liberia and Sierra Leone have emerged from more than a decade of devastating back-to-back civil wars that claimed in all nearly 400,000 lives and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing across their borders.

Henok Ochalla, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) field officer, said there still remain 3,563 Sierra Leonean refugees in the country. Of these 75 percent have opted for naturalisation.

One of the beneficiaries of the land scheme, Lombay Asuma, 45, was delighted to have found a new permanent home in Liberia.

"I don't have no mother I don't have no father in Sierra Leone. They have all been killed. If I go there who do I go to? My house has been burnt down," she said.

At the height of the Sierra Leone civil conflict, backed by Liberian former warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, Liberia sheltered according to the UNHCR, some 120,000 Sierra Leonean refugees who fled the decade-long war that ended back home in 2001.

Liberia grants citizenship to 2,600 Sierra Leone refugees - Yahoo! News