The head of sub office of the United Nations High Commission (UNHCR) for Refugees Gabriel Joseph Bagui has said that the organisation will downsize its operations in the country come next year.
He disclosed that the three available options for Refugees in the country are gradually phasing out as voluntary repatriation and reintegration opportunities for Liberian Refugees is almost near completion and that the newly established National Refugee Authority will take over all refugee matters in the country.
He added that most of their activities will be scaled down but they will continue to support Government and its implementing partners to improve on the welfare of the vulnerable in the country.
Bagui also spoke about the relocation of the Bo office to Kenema where all UNHCR activities will be coordinated with the facilities in the Southern Region office space and other needed logistics will be handed over to the United Nations Integrated and Peace Building Office in Sierra Leone.
On the overall activities of UNHCR in the country he said that it has been challenging being faced with many constraints in the implementation of projects for refugees citing the construction of 400 shelters for Liberian Refugees integrating into the Sierra Leonean Society.
He disclosed that the reintegration package faced serious constraints that resulted to the downsizing of the 400 shelters to 250 and that most of the projects are yet to be completed for occupation.
“Our implementing partners particularly contractors for the shelter and watsans components are responsible for some of the delays in the completion of projects particularly Caritas and Help Sierra Leone”.
He further highlighted some of the constraints faced in the implementation of the reintegration projects such as the rainy season, inadequate food for work, inflated cost of building materials in the market and lack of commitment from the Liberian Refugees to reintegrate locally.
A single Shelter project has a component of 2 rooms, showers and toilet facility for non-vulnerable refugees with a budget of Le2.273,000.00 while beneficiaries are responsible for the provision of mud bricks and other raw materials for the construction.
The extremely vulnerable are provided with the same structures but human labour and the provision of raw materials will be provided by the project with a budget tune of Le2,783,000.00 due to their inability to work for themselves.
Bagui also clarified some of the UNHCR complications in the resettlement programme of the protection unit noting that the 1951 convention, which is the Refugee Status Determinant, has sensitive and difficult matters to be processed with maximum expertise. Moses Alieu Gbouma Regional Coordinator East told our reporter that implementation of reintegration projects in refugee camps in the Southern and Eastern Regions has been challenging to NaCSA.
By Saidu Bah