Vice President Boakai Assures Sierra Leonean Refugees Full Protection

Thursday, 2nd April 2009
Monrovia, Liberia - Liberia’s Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has assured Sierra Leoneons who have opted to reintegrate into Liberian society of the Liberian Government’s fullest protection under the law.
He observed that Liberia and Sierra Leone have a lot in common, with similar ethnic groups, landscape and traditions and that “whatever benefits Liberia benefits Sierra Leone.”
The Vice President made the observation in Bensonville on April 1 during a program marking the handing over of passports to Sierra Leoneon refugees who have opted to reintegrate into Liberian society.
The Liberian Vice President reminded the Sierra Leoneons that “rights come with responsibilities” and challenged them to live within the confines of the laws of their new country.
“Everywhere you live you have to be governed by laws. Be law-abiding and help to build a system in your new home so that good things will happen. Make this your home, live peacefully with the people around you,” he added.
Vice President Boakai said the Liberian Government was supportive of the integration program, and thanked the Guinean and Sierra Leoneon governments for accommodating Liberians and allowing them to live in peace in their countries during the civil conflict.
He hoped West Africa would one day be like the European Union, where citizens of member countries are free to go to any other state in Europe.
The Commissioner of Immigration, Mr.Chris Massaquoi reiterated that Liberians, Guineans and Liberians are one people, and assured the Sierra Leoneons of Government’s full protection. He, however, cautioned them to abide by Liberia's laws.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officer-in-charge, Ms. Sharon Cooper, said the exercise was in the “spirit of the ECOWAS treaty on free movement."
The Sierra Leoneon Ambassador to Liberia, Rev Marie Bent Bernard, described the ceremony as a milestone in the history of the reintegration program of Sierra Leoneon refugees. She disclosed that 16 houses constructed by UNHCR are currently being occupied by Sierra Leoneon refugees and that 50 additional self-contained houses are under construction to accommodate the Sierra Leoneons.
Ms. Bernard observed that the ceremony was a demonstration of the goodwill of the people of Liberia, and thanked Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for accommodating Sierra Leoneon refugees.
The Sierra Leoneon envoy said the program was a sub-regional approach to finding a lasting solution to the refugee problem, and that it was being replicated in Sierra Leone. He added that the 9,000 Liberian refugees still residing in Sierra Leone could benefit from a similar gesture, if they choose to stay in Sierra Leone.
Under Liberian law, passports are a prerequisite for the Sierra Leoneons to naturalize as Liberians.