Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's motorcade leaves the airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on June 17, 2021, after the end of his exile in Belgium | Photo: EPA/Legnan Koula
Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's motorcade leaves the airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on June 17, 2021, after the end of his exile in Belgium | Photo: EPA/Legnan Koula

UN refugee agency UNHCR is recommending the cessation of refugee status for Ivorian refugees by June 2022. The agency says that "fundamental and durable changes" in Cote d'Ivoire have made living there much safer.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has recommended that states hosting Ivorian refugees end their refugee status, the organization said in a statement released on Thursday (October 7). The UN agency recommended that these countries should either help Ivorians return to their home country -- if that is what they want -- or help them get permanent residency or citizenship if they want to remain in the host country.

Security situation changed in Cote d'Ivoire

"In light of the fundamental and durable changes in Cote d'Ivoire, I am pleased to recommend a general cessation of refugee status for Ivorian refugees to take effect on June 30, 2022," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was quoted as saying.

Ivorians who are still in need of international protection will have the right to seek an exemption, according to UNHCR.

The UN agency said that its recommendation is based on an in-depth analysis of the situation in Cote d'Ivoire. According to the agency, the security in wide areas of the country has gradually improved over the past ten years due to several political developments -- among them the creation of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2011, inclusive parliamentary elections in March 2021 and the return of high-profile opposition leaders in 2021 (including former president Laurent Gbagbo).

More than 90,000 Ivorian refugees and asylum seekers

According to UNHCR, there are currently about 91,000 Ivorian refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. Some 51,000 live in West Africa -- 33,000 of them in Liberia -- and roughly 22,000 in Europe.

Ivorians were displaced by two civil wars -- the first lasted from 2002 to 2007 and second from 2011 to 2012. Thousands, moreover, fled to neighboring countries in 2020, fearing violence linked to presidential and parliamentary elections.

Since 2011, some 290,000 Ivorian refugees living in West Africa have voluntarily returned to Cote d'Ivoire.

A survey carried out by UNHCR in the region showed that 60% of those remaining intend to return home, while 30% are still undecided and 10% want to stay in their host country.

The UN agency said that it is organizing transfers from Liberia on a weekly basis to help Ivorians wishing to return home. Since the end of August, some 5,000 refugees have reportedly been reunited with family members. UNHCR said that it is also providing financial support to returning refugees to help their reintegration.

 

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