Monrovia (ICRC) – Fourteen Ivorian children who had sought refuge in Liberia five years ago were reunited with their families between 4 and 12 February. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been able to resume its cross-border family reunification activities between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire following the decision of the tripartite commission (Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to reopen the humanitarian corridor between the two countries. The border had been officially closed for the last 16 months owing to the Ebola outbreak, meaning the voluntary repatriation process and cross-border family reunification had had to be suspended.
“These reunifications mean these children get their lives back. We wish them the best of luck,” said Miroslawa Czerna, ICRC protection coordinator in Liberia, who accompanied them to the border. The children, aged between 10 and 20, had been living in the so-called Prime Timber Production refugee camp in Grand Gedeh or with foster parents in host communities in Nimba. The ICRC’s delegations in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire worked together to find their relatives, using radio publicity spots and a poster campaign displaying their pictures. A webpage was also set up to help identify and match separated family members.
This cross-border reunification is the first the ICRC has been able to conduct since the end of the Ebola outbreak. “We wish to thank the Liberian and Ivorian authorities for reopening the humanitarian corridor, enabling the children to get back to their families,” said Julien Lerisson, head of the ICRC delegation in Liberia. “The children became separated from their families in 2011 as a result of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire, and we’re delighted they can finally return home.”
The ICRC endeavours to reunite families separated by conflict or other violence. With the support of a large network of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, it focuses on searching for separated family members, restoring contact through phone calls and written Red Cross messages and ultimately, wherever possible, reuniting families.
In times of armed conflict, children separated from their families are often the most vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Reuniting them with family members is essential to ensure their protection and is a core part of the ICRC’s work. Over the past five years, the ICRC has successfully reunited 275 children and vulnerable adults with relatives in Côte d’Ivoire.