Liberian Refugees and Rights
in Accra, Ghana
A refugee settlement was established in 1990 for Liberians
in Ghana in response to the arrival of asylum seekers fleeing civil
unrest in Liberia. Between 1992 and 1997, UNHCR provided them with
relief materials as well as a multi-sectoral programme. In 1997
when the situation in Liberia was deemed safe for return, UNHCR
facilitated the voluntary repatriation of over 3,000 refugees. The
vast majority decided to remain in Ghana and in June 2000, all forms
of material assistance to Liberian refugees ceased. As the crisis
situation in Liberia intensified soon after, new waves of refugees
entered Ghana and by September 1, 2003, there were 42,388 Liberian
refugees in the country. They have since been without any direct
assistance although they still remain refugees. A UNHCR report paints
a deplorable picture of conditions in the refugee camp, with no
steady supply of potable water, toilets in a state of disrepair,
rubbish scattered all over and electricity available to only a quarter
of the settlement. Although UNHCR has since mid-2003 returned to
the assistance of these refugees, provision is made on a community-wide
basis, not on an individual basis. The Liberian refugees have, therefore,
been compelled to be self-reliant. This effort has led to a few
skirmishes with local residents in recent times over land.
In line with the focus of project 6a, it is important to take a
critical look at the issue of rights of Liberian refugees in Ghana
in the context of their status vis-à-vis the position taken
by UNHCR, the role of the host government and the indigenous community.
This research will focus on the coping strategies of the Liberian
refugees in Ghana since 1900. A comparative approach will be used
to try to identify differences in strategies before and after direct
support was withdrawn, as well as between old refugees who enjoyed
direct support and new ones who arrived after support had been withdrawn.
Key Research Questions
||What coping strategies have refugees used
over time and how do they differ among different categories
of settlers – gender, education and skills, duration of
||How do refugees negotiate for land for housing
and farming and in what legal context (statutory and traditional)
do they operate?
||What lessons can be learnt from direct assistance
to refugees (hand-out) versus community-based assistance?
||What impact have the refugees made on the
immediate community in which they live and on the socioeconomic
development of Ghana as a whole?
||What lessons can be learnt to help improve
the refugee situation in the West Africa sub-region?