Tema, Dec. 16, GNA -- Three hundred and eight-five Liberian refugees have left the Tema port for their country on board the vessel "MV Cerano" The refugees, males and females including children left voluntarily with most of their belongings.
This is the first batch of refugees leaving the country by sea, the first 1,000 left by air in batches in October 2004. Earlier at a news conference, Mr Thomas Albrecht of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Accra gave the assurance that the organisers of the repatriation exercise have put adequate measures in place for their protection, assistance and care through out the repatriation and reintegration process.
He said the UNHCR in collaboration with the government; the National Transitional Government of Liberia and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have signed a tripartite agreement to set the legal framework for the operation.
On their arrival at home, the UNHCR would continue to provide the returnees with packages including food, household items, and basic tools to support their reintegration to contribute towards the rebuilding of their lives in a sustainable manner.
Mr Albrecht expressed gratitude to Ghanaians, especially President John Agyekum Kufuor as the ECOWAS Chairman for the protection, safety and respect accorded the refugees.
He commended the returnees for the bold step taken to go back home in the face of many difficulties and challenges ahead to rebuild their lives in their home country.
"More progress is still needed in Liberia to make it possible for all traumatized refugees to return in safety and with dignity to their homes in all the different parts of the country", he stated.
Mr Andrew W. Kronyanh, Liberia Ambassador to Ghana, expressed appreciation for the initiative saying, "it is not easy going to restart life under difficult condition" and urged them to go through the rebuilding of their lives with an open heart.
Mr Kronyanh commended Ghanaians for the peaceful elections in the country last week and urged African countries to emulate this shinning example to ensure peace on the continent.
Captain Victor Jonah, Tema Harbour Master, praised the organisers for the adequate preparations for the repatriation of the returnees, saying that, in the past returnees encountered difficulties on the vessels that sailed them to their various destinations.
Mr Anthony Polosa, IOM representative said a total of 2,500 Liberians in both Ghana and Nigeria had returned to their country. Some of the returnees who have stayed in the country for the past 14 years said they were going home to help in the reconstruction of the nation because "home sweet home".
One of them Mr Samuel Gbaa said while in the country he studied in building construction and carpentry and expressed the wish to impart the knowledge to his people back home while Mr William Tarr, a social scientist, a product of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology said he hoped to work hard in any reactivated factory.
However, characteristic of children, eleven year-old Vannie P. Konneh said "I will feel bad if I go there without water and light because how can I live without these facilities".
The returnees expressed gratitude to Ghanaians for their hospitality, which made them stay peacefully saying that the freedom of movement was also a moral booster to them.