The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, celebrated World Refugee Day in Côte d’Ivoire on Monday, together with former refugees who have returned home before the Ivorian refugee status formally ends at the end of the of this month.
UNHCR recommended in early October that states hosting refugees from Côte d’Ivoire end refugee status and facilitate “their voluntary repatriation, acquisition of permanent residence or naturalization for those who wish to remain in the countries of reception”.
“For those of us who are part of UNHCR, nothing is better than seeing the end of exile. After two decades, Ivorian refugees can return home in safety and dignity. They are proud Ivorians, living and working in their own communities or in neighboring countries,” Grandi stressed in a statement.
Thus, he stressed that this “return of hundreds of thousands of Ivorians shows the region — and the world — what is possible when there is political will to end violence and true cooperation between nations.”
In a ceremony held in Abidjan and sponsored by the President of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, in which national representatives and ambassadors of the countries that received the Ivorian refugees participated, Grandi met with the families of former refugees and He has wished the best on his return home.
The process to formally end refugee status — the application of cessation clauses — for Ivorian refugees takes effect on June 30, acknowledging the end of an era of displacement for hundreds of thousands of Ivorian refugees.
This termination of refugee status follows the peaceful resolution of two decades of intermittent civil conflict and political instability in the West African nation.
The resolution of a crisis that, at its height, forced more than 300,000 people to flee to neighboring countries and beyond.
More than 310,000 Ivorian refugees, 96 percent of all those registered in West Africa, have chosen to return home, according to figures available to UNHCR.
More than 11,000 of the 14,000 people who have returned this year have come from neighboring Liberia, where UNHCR is organizing weekly transport for Ivorians who want to return home.
The High Commissioner pledged UNHCR’s continued support to Côte d’Ivoire and the countries hosting Ivorian refugees to implement the cessation clauses and help all those who wish to return home.
The Ivorians have fled two civil wars, which occurred between 2002 and 2007 and between 2011 and 2012, to which has been added the fear of violence in the framework of the elections that led many other citizens to flee the country in 2020.