Sierra Leonean refugees who were given three options as their country attained peace have now turned to the integration option put down by UNHCR recently.
The three options put forward to refugees from Sierra Leone were repatriation, integration and exemption. These three points were over and over explained to refugees in several meetings making it clear that the war in their country is now over.
According to Fatou Barry, protection officer for refugees at UNHCR, it all started when the war ended in Sierra Leone when the then President Tejan Kabba pronounced the end of the war in that country. "We have been talking to Sierra Leonean refugees to let them understand the weight of each option laid before them. They attended the meetings and are quite prepared for all the options. In fact some have repatriated and the last batches left in December," She revealed.
UNHCR has seen a peaceful transition of all the options. This time round, the UNHCR office is issuing residential permits to those who chose the option to integrate into the society. "The residential permit is issued at Bakoteh and it is only that option that falls under integration," said Christian Kamara, refugee chairlady.
According to UNHCR Gambia, the next option is exemption. Sonia, senior protection officer in the Dakar office had made it clear that the option was not favorable to those in Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and others; she therefore advised that refugees be very careful in choosing the same option. "It is only very rare cases that can be considered, note it," Sonia said.