Following an in-depth analysis of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, recommended on Thursday that countries hosting Ivorians end their refugee status, and help them to voluntarily repatriate, obtain permanent residency or began the naturalization process to remain.
“In light of the fundamental and durable changes in Côte d’Ivoire, I am pleased to recommend a general cessation of refugee status for Ivorian refugees to take effect on 30 June 2022”, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
Tens of thousands in waiting
According to data available to UNHCR, there are approximately 91,000 Ivorian refugees and asylum seekers around the world.
Some 51,000 live in West Africa, with 33,000 in Liberia alone, and a further 22,000 in Europe.
Since 2011, some 290,000 Ivoirian refugees living in West Africa have voluntarily returned to Côte d’Ivoire and a UNHCR survey in the region revealed that 60 per cent of those remaining intend to repatriate, while 30 per cent are still undecided and 10 per cent will stay in their host country.
The cessation of refugee status recommendation comes with concrete measures to promote durable solutions for Ivorian refugees that will facilitate their voluntary return and reintegration, and the opportunity to seek permanent residency or naturalization where they are, including notably for those who have formed strong ties to host countries.
“I am grateful for the example set by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire as well as those of Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania and Togo, which have demonstrated political will to implement a comprehensive roadmap for solutions for Ivorian refugees, some of whom have been displaced for decades”, Mr. Grandi told the annual session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee.
UNHCR welcomed this week, commitments made by States as part of the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Ivorian refugees, which include the entitlement for those with ongoing international protection needs to request an exemption from cessation through international law safeguards procedures.
UNHCR is organizing weekly transportation from Liberia to help Ivorians wishing to return home.
Since late August, some 5,000 refugees have been reunited with family members, some of whom they have not seen in decades. UNHCR is also providing financial support to returning refugees to facilitate their reintegration.
“This regional effort deserves the applause of the entire international community”, said the High Commissioner.
Ivorians fled two civil wars, first between 2002 and 2007 then later from 2011 to 2012.
Thousands also fled to neighbouring countries in 2020, fearing violence linked to presidential and parliamentary elections.
UNHCR remains committed to assisting Côte d’Ivoire and host countries implement the cessation recommendation and continues to advocate for States to provide refugees with civil, identity and travel documents.
In Côte d’Ivoire, this includes issuing birth certificates, which help ensure people can enrol in school, get national identity cards and vote.
“It is critical that States and other actors provide full support to these solutions in a timely and concerted manner to facilitate social inclusion and reduce the risk of Statelessness”, the UN refugee agency said.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Industry, UNIDO sign €2m agreement
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Industry and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have signed a €2m agreement to support Integrated Agro-Industrial Parks (IAIPs), funded by the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation. Thes agreement will contribute to the development of the agro-industrial sector and the creation of decent jobs and economic opportunities in the rural areas of Ethiopia. The objective of the new project is to support the inclusive and sustainable development of four pilot IAIPs. Project activities will concentrate on increasing private sector involvement in agro-industry, improving food quality, safety and traceability, and promoting social inclusion and environmental sustainability.
With the support of UNIDO, the Government of Ethiopia has prioritized the establishment of the IAIPs as a primary tool to achieve agricultural modernization and rural industrialization in the country. To this end, the Government of Ethiopia has mobilized various funding sources and development partners for the implementation of IAIPs. The current project is for the development of the four pilot IAIPs, located in Oromia (Bulbula), Sidama (Yirgalem), Amhara (Bure) and Tigray (Beaker). The project is funded by the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation, in alignment with the Italian strategy outlined in the Ethio-Italian country framework 2017 – 2019 which encourages sustainable and inclusive economic growth to ensure full employment and decent work for all, especially in rural areas, as well as promoting partnerships between Italian and Ethiopian institutions to ensure continuity of investment and transfer of technologies.
The signature ceremony was attended by Shisema Gebreselassie, State Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Aurelia Patrizia Calabrò, UNIDO Representative and Director of the Regional Office Hub, and Isabella Lucaferri, Head of the AICS Addis Ababa Office.
Sudan: Looting in Darfur, leaves 730,000 without enough to eat
The UN chief condemned on Wednesday the looting and attacks against United Nations facilities, equipment and supplies gifted to the Sudanese authorities for civilian in El Fasher, Darfur.
Last Tuesday evening, a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse located in the Borsa area of El Fasher town, the capital of North Darfur State, came under attack from unknown armed groups.
Over 1,900 metric tons of food commodities that were meant to feed 730,000 vulnerable people for a month were stolen.
The incident followed the looting and reported violence last week at the former UN-African Union Hybrid Operation (UNAMID) base in El Fasher.
The UN chief also asked the Sudanese authorities to facilitate the safe working environment and passage for remaining UN operations in the region.
He concluded by thanking the UN civilian and uniformed personnel who remain on the ground under “challenging” circumstances.
WFP cuts off aid
WFP chief David Beasley tweeted his outrage over the “senseless attacks” in El Fasher and strongly condemned the continued looting and destruction of the agency’s assets.
“As a result, we have been forced to suspend WFP operations in North Darfur, effective immediately”, said Mr. Beasly.
The theft has robbed nearly two million Sudanese of the food and nutritional support they so desperately need.
“Not only is this a tremendous setback to WFP operations, but it endangers our staff and jeopardizes our ability to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families”, he added.
The Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Khardiata Lo N’diaye, also condemned the looting.
“This was food assistance meant for Sudan’s most vulnerable people. Humanitarian assistance should never be a target”, she underscored.
Currently, one in three people in Sudan needs humanitarian assistance – equivalent to an estimated 14.3 million individuals.
According to the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, 25 per cent of those people require food security and livelihoods support.
An attack like this, the coordinator explained, severely impedes the ability to deliver to the people who need it the most.
“We urgently ask all parties to adhere to humanitarian principles and allow the safe delivery of life-saving assistance”, Ms. N’diaye stated.
WFP currently faces “unprecedented” funding shortfalls, estimated at $358 million.
Earlier in the month, thousands of people took to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the uprising that led to the April 2019 overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for three decades.
Demonstrators who made for the presidential palace were also protesting October’s military coup and the political agreement signed later on 21 November.
UN officials and agencies expressed deep concern at the time over credible reports of serious human rights violations, including the use of rape and gang rape of women and girls, employed to disperse protesters.
As of 29 December, the security situation had been restored, according to State authorities.
Ms. N’diaye thanked the local authorities for preventing the situation from worsening but called upon the Government to step up efforts to protect and safeguard humanitarian premises and assets.
Thousands head home voluntarily from Zambia to DR Congo
Nearly 5,000 refugees who fled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) four years ago, are opting to head home voluntarily from Zambia over the coming months, with the first 100 people setting out on Tuesday.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that security had improved sufficiently in DR Congo’s Pweto territory, Haut-Katanga province, for them to go home “in safety and dignity”.
Inter-ethnic clashes as well as fighting between Congolese security forces and militia groups in parts of southeastern DRC in 2017, have uprooted communities.
Through intention surveys carried out in October by UNHCR, some 4,774 refugees expressed their aim to voluntarily return to DRC.
The voluntary repatriation, which will continue into 2022, is part of the ongoing 2006 tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the Governments of Zambia and DR Congo.
Partners are supporting the returning refugees by providing voluntary repatriation documents, expedited immigration clearance, health screening and school certificates to allow children to resume their education in the DRC.
“As security has improved in some areas of Haut-Katanga, an estimated 20,000 refugees have spontaneously left Zambia since 2018 to return to their areas of origin – mainly to Pweto territory”, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency is working with authorities and development partners – such as Catholic aid confederation CARITAS – in DRC to advance reintegration projects, including education, health and agriculture, and to ensure conditions for safe and dignified returns.
Currently, some 18,000 Congolese refugees farm at Mantapala settlement – established in early 2018 to accommodate displaced people – alongside 5,000 Zambians, across 11 integrated villages.
As Zambia continues to host 103,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and former refugees, including more than 63,000 from DR Congo, over the past three years around 20,000 Congolese have left to return home.
The two agencies have provided buses and trucks to help transport refugees, their belongings and food for the journey, Families will receive a cash grant to help them pick up their lives again in the DRC.
“UNHCR will disinfect the buses, provide face masks, hand sanitizers and, together with the authorities, ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures are observed, including loading of buses to half the capacity”, Mr. Baloch said.
UNICEF has improved water and sanitation facilities at the reception centre in Chiengi district, where returning refugees are being housed for the night to process immigration documents, before embarking on the final leg of their journey home.
And Zambian authorities are providing rapid COVID-19 tests for the returning refugees, at the Mantapala Rural Health Centre.
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