Liberia’s 14-year civil war produced several waves of refugees who at one point numbered over 700,000. These refugees found asylum in almost all of the coastal West African states from The Gambia to Nigeria. There have been encouraging signs of peace and stability in Liberia since 2003, including the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their areas of origin.
No more than 65,000 Liberians refugees remain in West Africa. It is expected that UNHCR will declare in 2011 that the 65,000 Liberians no longer merit prima facie status as refugees, a change that will likely compel many to take advantage of local integration or repatriation. All of these factors present an opportunity for U.S. engagement to ensure that remaining refugees avail themselves, primarily, of two of the three durable solutions -- return to Liberia or local integration -- no later than 2011. Because Liberians will no longer have prima facie status as refugees, the third solution -- third country resettlement – will be available to only a limited extent for them.
The U.S. Government will continue to support UNHCR efforts to promote local integration as a durable solution. The U.S. will work with other donors to provide multilateral support and work with governments that allow local integration as an option for Liberians. The U.S. will continue to monitor reintegration activities in Liberia to ensure they are transitioned to development activities and reintegration remains sustainable.
Even with the end to prima facie refugee status, the U.S. Government will work with UNHCR and other donors to ensure that a refugee status determination process continues to be in place for any Liberians who claim to a need for protection. The U.S. Government will also ensure that countries of asylum in West Africa provide a proper opportunity for evaluation of refugee claims.