1000+ refugees get Liberian citizenship

2010-08-23 15:20

Monrovia - Liberia has begun the process of granting citizenship to 1 380 Sierra Leoneans who fled there as war refugees, officials said following a ceremony held on Sunday.

The project, in conjunction with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, started with the applicants being given Sierra Leonean passports at Blamassee Camp, Virginia, about 25km from the capital Monrovia.

"That is part of the process of moving towards a solution to obtaining the Liberian passports," said Wallace Quaye, field officer for the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Reunification Commission (LRRRC)

Around 120 000 Sierra Leonean refugees fled to Liberia as a brutal civil war raged in their own country between 1991 and 2002.

Many returned when war broke out in Liberia in 2003, and another 4 118 have been assisted by the UNHCR to return to Sierra Leone.

"By the end of 2003, some 13 900 refugees were verified in the UNHCR data base, and resided in camps.

"In October 2006, 2 155 refugees participated in the local integration programme, of which 69% opted for naturalisation and 31% opted for resident alien status," said Momolu Freeman, reintegration officer for the LRRRC.

He said the most difficult aspect of the local integration process was finding land for the former refugees, and 352 hectares around the country have been procured for them.