LIBERIAN REFUGEES STILL IN GUINEA
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January 18, 2018
PLEASE HELP TO REPATRIATE LIBERIAN REFUGEES STILL IN GUINEA Report of a Visit
My name is Wilson K Vai, I am 36 years of old helping to resettle Liberian returnees in a newly established community called Lutheran Global Village-Zota District Bong County.
I was privileged to visit two main refugee camps in Guinea where Liberian Refugees live: Kouankan and Laine camp, and also a portion of the refugee community in N’zerekore capital of the forest region.
The visit took place December 10-16 2017.I am aware that LWF/DWS has been active in Guinea until a few years ago, also providing much aid at Laine Refugee Camp.
I am not sure about exactly figures but, according to information received, I believe that a total of up to 3000 Liberian refugees (if not more) are still living in these two camps, while others of course, are trying hard to find ways of making a living outside the camps in other community.
The Lutheran Community is strongly established in both camps and also in N’zerekore. It is a leading Christian group among the Liberians. I feel that we are obligated to them in particular. I understand that the Lutheran Church has not been given assistance for years now.
In all that, some are integrating little by little because they are at the end of their tether and leave the camps in order to survive. I have been telling them plainly: As far as I can see, reparation is the only real option in spite of everything.
I believe for some years now they have been receiving no help from the international community. The NGOs have all left. There is no help with anything: medical expenses like doctor’s fees or medicines, education of their children , some of the refugees in Kouankan, Laine camp tries desperately to keep make-shift school for 500 plus children going), daily livelihood, food, or whatever. And refugees don’t have nice gardens with banana trees etc like the locals.
Particularly in Laine, the tarpaulins for temporary living quarters, once provided possibly by LWF/DWS itself, are still there but they are tearing and leaking and the rain gets inside. They simply put palm leaves over those tears.They complain that they feel totally abandoned and forgotten. They have no advocate, they say. They say that hardly anyone from outside Guinea comes to visit the camps and informs them of the true situation. Many claimed that they have heard the Liberian government. I do not know what the true situation is.I have told them that I am happy to be their advocate and I will bring their plight to the attention of those in this world who matter. I promised them to publish some of their stories. They ask me to connect them with the media so that their voice is being heard. However, I made this clear: I expect absolute truthfulness and transparency from all sides – to start with from the refugees themselves - and that I have to get information from the LWF and other organizations to get the full picture and that we need to be fair to all sides.They recognize that a lot of help has been given previously. I recognize that, as in many relief situations that a great deal of support given years ago was also squandered because of corruption, mismanagement and theft, like sewing machines disappearing and what have you. This had to do both with the local administration, UNHCR, relief staff as well as the Liberians themselves. However, I have checked as much as possible and I believe that the present Liberian refugee community had anything to do with that.
The refugees are concerned that the correct information about their true situation is not reaching the people of the world. They don’t trust their local administration or what the local UN representatives are saying about them.
They say that without further support “we lose control of our children who run wild on the streets without discipline” (no sufficient schooling) and our young women stand in front of hotels right now hoping to sleep with someone so that they have money to take back to their families.”
Request for information and evaluation from LRRC/LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT
I have to ask you to comment on the various issues raised please and respond to my questions at your earliest convenience. I consider this a high priority. Specifically allow me to ask you this:
What specific aid is presently being offered (if any) to help them return to their home country?
If help is still offered, is help possible on an individual basis tailored to the needs of a particular situation or family?
Example: I only heard of one woman and her four children that they want to go home to Liberia. But she has no family or land or house left in Liberia. She asked for financial help to reestablish her family ‘back home’.
What monitoring of the situation, and by whom, takes place at the present time? What visitations are being made?
As for integration into the local community, what help is being offered? What resources are being made available?
Have these people ever been offered participation in trauma healing processes? (Some still seem traumatized with unresolved issues from days past.)
I discovered a blind group at Kouankan Camp linked to the Lutheran Church who seems to receive no support from anyone. Any suggestion how they can be helped? (I have written to Christian Blind Mission in Melbourne but no response.)
Personal views in summary at this stage
I believe that no new large scale action is required and a limited reinvestment of resources in the refugee community will suffice but that targeted, small-scale relief now is imperative
that personal interest, communication and visits are most important
specific help/subsidies with integration (even though they reject that word) is offered with people from outside Guinea being involved, also monitoring the situation
special attention is being given to assisting with health and medical care - such as the HIV Aids issue and the provision or subsidizing of standard medication.
Wilson K Vai
Lutheran Global Village
Liberia West Africa
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