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Welcome, Friends

Mar 4, 2009, 4:38 AM

We extend a sincere welcome to all those Sierra Leonean refugees who choose to stay with us here in The Gambia over the coming weeks and months.

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 explained to refugees in several meetings making it clear that the war in their country is now over.

The choice is now there for them to make but to those who do wish to stay we extend the hand of friendship. Our West African neighbours should be made to feel welcome here in The Gambia if they choose to stay. They arrived here from a war torn country where brutality that shocked the world was the order of the day. We must recognise the suffering they endured and give them continued succour.

According to Fatou Barry, protection officer for refugees at UNHCR, "some [refugees] have repatriated and the last batches left in December." To those people who felt they could return to the land of their birth we wish the very best of luck as they try to rebuild their lives.

To those who will stay with us here we say welcome and please do not hesitate to ask if there is anything we can do to make your integration as easy and painless a process as possible.

It cannot be an easy thing to be forced by violence and bloodshed to leave your native land and we hope that those who were forced to make this terrible choice have found, and will continue to find, peace here in The Gambia.

"I can sympathise with everything, except suffering."

Oscar Wilde