Hundreds of undocumented Liberian refugees in Ghana have appealed to the Buduburam United Methodist Church in Ghana to assist them in repatriating to Liberia. The group approached the church because of the imminent security threat they face because of the upcoming general elections in Ghana.
According to the Rev. James Kaifunbah, Buduburam’s pastor, the group made the appeal to the church because of its initial plans to repatriate undocumented Liberians from the Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. He said this group of Liberians missed out on the United Nations 2010 Cessation Clause on Refugees Status.
“The UN gave us three options at the time; voluntary repatriation, local integration, or exemption from the first two options,” he explained. “Some of them were far from the camp, while others applications were denied by the UN.”
Because of the upcoming election in Ghana, Kaifunbah said the resident status of all Liberians still living on the camp and in other parts of Ghana is being verified by security personnel. “I am not sure what the government of Ghana or the security of Ghana will do to these Liberians as a result of being here without proper documents,” he added. The lack of official documents in Ghana made many Liberians, including some of his church members, vulnerable to arrest.
Asked if he was ready to return to Liberia, Joseph Torh, a Liberian refugee who has been in Ghana since 1990, simply said, “I want to go back home.”
Torh, a founding member of the Buduburam United Methodist Church, said when Bishop John Innis of the Liberia Conference visited the camp and discussed plans to seek help to get them out of the camp, many Liberians were happy. “Even those who are not United Methodists were now looking up to the church for this repatriation effort, but their hope is now dwindling,” he said.
When the first Liberian civil war (1989-1997) disrupted the country, many Liberians fled to countries within the West African sub-region, leaving all their belongings behind except their religion and denomination. Buduburam United Methodist was established in 1993 to serve and minister to the needs of the many Liberians, especially United Methodists. The church was greatly supported by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, but that support stopped when the last two missionaries left in 2008.
Torh was denied during the Cessation Clause application period. He and other Liberians are now looking to The United Methodist Church to help repatriate them to Liberia. “We have hope in the ability of the UMC to get us out of this refugees camp in Ghana,” he said.
*Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.
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