UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has recommended that States hosting Ivorian refugees end their refugee status and facilitate their voluntary repatriation, reintegration, or acquisition of permanent residency or naturalization for those wishing to remain in host countries.
“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, at the start of the 72nd annual session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee this week.
The recommendation to apply cessation clauses in the 1951 Refugee Convention is based on an in-depth analysis of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. It comes with concrete measures to promote durable solutions for Ivorian refugees that will facilitate their voluntary return and reintegration into their home country, and the opportunity to seek permanent residency or naturalization, including notably for those who have formed strong ties to their host countries. Refugees who may have ongoing international protection needs will be entitled to request an exemption from cessation, through procedures reflecting safeguards in international law.
According to data available to UNHCR, there are currently 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.
UNHCR has welcomed commitments made by States as part of the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Ivorian refugees, at the annual meeting of UNHCR’s Executive Committee in Geneva this week.
“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,” said Grandi. “This regional effort deserves the applause of the entire international community.”
Since 2011, some 290,000 Ivoirian refugees living in West Africa have voluntarily returned to Côte d’Ivoire. A UNHCR survey conducted in the region shows that 60 per cent of remaining Ivorian refugees intend to repatriate. Thirty per cent are still undecided, while 10 per cent have chosen to stay in their host country.
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.
Ivorians fled two civil wars between 2002 and 2007, and 2011 and 2012. Thousands of Ivorians 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 the issuance of birth certificates, which help ensure people can enroll 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.