As the world marked World Refugee Day on June, 20, 120 refugees living in Ghana were flown via a chartered flight to Liberia.
The number adds to the 2,500 refugees who have already left to Liberia in fulfillment of the United Nationsâ repatriation exercise for refugees.
The exercise, facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also coincided with the celebration of the African Refugee Day.
The refugees will receive a resettlement package of $200 for children and $300 for adults upon their arrival. Previously the Liberian refugees were allowed a 30kg luggage on the flight but that has been increased to 40kg.
In 2006, the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) registered 35,000 refugees. However, their statuses as refugees held since 1989, at the outbreak of Liberiaâs first civil war, ceases by June 30, 2012. Most of them have chosen an option to return to Liberia.
However the local integration policy, which would allow refugees to integrate into Ghanaian society, has not yet been defined by Ghanaâs government.
In a short ceremony at the departure hall of the Kotoka International Airport to officially bid the 120 refugees farewell, the refugees, celebrating the day themed âRefugees Do Not Have A Choice, You Do,â showed signs of excitement as they got ready to check into their flight.
Abigail Peters, an 18-year-old Liberian refugee, who had stayed in Ghana for the past eight years, said she was excited to go back home with her family although that meant the abrupt end of her education in Ghana.
âI feel happy being here for so many years and now am going back home; I feel happy,â she said.
She said she would use her settlement money for her education when she gets back to Liberia. Abigail was unsure what Liberia would be like but expects to see some changes.
âI expect to see changes in Liberia, the roads, hospitals and education,â she said.
Moses King Bestman also expressed happiness. He said although Ghana was a great country, he believed it was the end of his stay.
He expressed gratitude to all Ghanaians as he described Ghana as a peaceful country.Â He said his greatest experience was learning the different Ghanaian cultures.
Moses said he was not disappointed, adding that with the skills he acquired during his stay in Ghana, âI will be a great man.â
He also advised other refugees who were contemplating whether to leave or stay in the country to return home as they were just visitors in Ghana.
âWe left Liberia, we left vacancies, so we have to go home and occupy those vacancies,â he said.
Veton Orana, UNHCR refugeesâ protection officer, who spoke to the media, said 1,000 refugees were expected to be repatriated by the end of July.
âThere is someone who will travel with them to Liberia and a representative from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will receive them,â he said.
Orana added that the UNHCR would facilitate the relocation of the refugees to their families, as well as monitor their integration back into the society.
âSome of them are going to see their country for the first time; we are monitoring where they are going, conditions and the provision of service,â he said.
Tetteh Padi, programmes coordinator at the GRB, also urged Ghanaians to remember that refugees are people who once lived comfortably in their homes, adding that Ghanaians should remember the refugees and maintain the peace in the country.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri & Mariam Ama Yeduah