Refugees settled in Liberia

“When my informant understood he would eat every day, he decided to join the rebels. Becoming a fighter was a survival strategy for many young men and women.” NAI guest researcher Hideyuki Okano has interviewed former rebels and refugees from Sierra Leone who now live in Liberia.

His most recent research looks at Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. The economic performance was better in Liberia prior the civil wars and many Sierra Leoneans migrated to improve their situation. Therefore, many of the refugees from Sierra Leone have relatives or other ties to Liberia. However, there are also refugee camps for those without other options.
“Refugee camps in Liberia are open and people come and go as they wish. If they find another place to stay, they can leave, and come back later if necessary”, Okano says.
Many of them have built new lives in Monrovia, and have occupations and families. According to Okano, few of them are interested in returning to Sierra Leone.

His research also shows that diaspora often help refugees, contrary to the common view of them as warmongers. And sometimes it is combined, as the case with one of Okano’s informants, a business man in Monrovia. Prior to the war in Sierra Leone, he had helped Sierra Leoneans stuck in the Liberian civil war. When the war began in Sierra Leone he organised transports for refugees to cross the border into Liberia.   However, later, as the conflict escalated in Sierra Leone, he started to recruit fighters. Some of them were refugees.
“Recruiting fighters was not difficult. Several young men l interviewed said they joined when they realised they would be fed regularly”, Okano concludes.

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