Another refugee camp closes in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia
UNHCR, 23 Mar 2014
Solo Refugee Camp Closes in Grand Gedeh County
*UNHCR hands over assets to community
Monrovia, 21 March, 2014 – In an effort to provide better protection and humanitarian services to some 46,000 Ivorian refugees remaining in Liberia, and in view of the high cost of running refugee camps, the Government of Liberia represented by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have officially closed the Solo Refugee Camp in Grand Gedeh County.
The camp, located some 15 kilometers from Zwedru, the Grand Gedeh capital, was closed on 21 March after the land had been cleared of all structures that once provided shelter for refugees. Solo camp is the third Ivorian refugee camp to be closed in the county and in Liberia over the past two years as the refugee population continues to dwindle. Ziah and Dougee camps closed in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
At a ceremony witnessed by Government and UN officials, local authorities, and members of the host community, the UNHCR Representative Khassim Diagne symbolically handed over the key to the camp signifying the turning over of 85 acres of land back to the Government and the local community. “The closure of Solo camp is part of the joint strategy by the Government of Liberia and UNHCR to consolidate refugee camps and provide targeted interventions especially in an environment where resources are scarce,” he said, expressing gratitude to the Government and people of Liberia for their generous hospitality.
As a token of appreciation for hosting Ivorian refugees, UNHCR and partners handed over assets including buildings that once served as primary school, clinic, offices, police details and barracks, warehouse, and distribution halls. Other assets included four hand-pumps, 27 latrines, nine bathhouses and three laundry slabs. In addition to the assets, the UN refugee agency had provided 91 houses with three bundles of Zinc each and other assorted construction materials to Solo Town community residents as a way of identifying with their development efforts.
The LRRRC Executive Director, Cllr Abla G. Williams, urged the community to make maximum use of the assets and add value to them, while Superintendent Peter Solo advised the population against vandalizing the facilities and to patiently wait for the Government to come up with a plan for their use. The Assistant Minister for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jeddi Armah, described the closure of the camp as “a positive development”. He expressed the hope that the need for refugee camps should no longer exist in West Africa or elsewhere.
Solo Refugee Camp was established in April 2011. At its peak, the camp hosted about 6,000 Ivorian refugees about 3,000 of whom had voluntarily repatriated to Côte d’Ivoire while others relocated to the PTP Refugee Camp at a former prime timber production site in the same county and now hosts more than 15,000 Ivorian refugees. Local authorities thanked UNHCR for the assets and reiterated that the existence of the camp created job opportunities for especially unemployed youths.
UNHCR and partners are currently engaged in the voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees with some 6,000 refugees so far repatriated over the past two months this year. Three Ivorian refugee camps now remain in three counties in Liberia: Bahn camp in Nimba, Little Wlebo camp in Maryland, and PTP cam