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UNHCR chief slams ‘refugee fraudsters’

February 8, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Sierra Leone has cautioned individuals she alleged are fraudulently posing as Liberian refugees as a ploy to exploit unsuspecting Sierra Leoneans to reframe from using the name of the organisation in carrying out their “dubious practices”.

Madam Moijama Siafa, while speaking at a one-day seminar organised for journalists and human rights activists at the Njala Venue, Lumley Beach, Aberdeen, Tuesday, said the UN agency has collaboratively worked with the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) to deal exclusively with the Liberian refugee issue in the country, noting that “some imposters are in the habit of disguising as Liberian refugees to influence people to give them money with the promise of providing them space in their resettlement package”.

She said they had over the years repatriated a good number of Liberian refugees while some were integrated into communities across the country, adding that those who refused to go back to their home country were asked to apply for asylum, and that a special committee was instituted within NaCSA to deal with the issue.

“UNHCR is only committed to 266 Liberian refugees whose cases are still being looked into,” maintained Madam Siafa. “This seminar is being organised to raise awareness about international protection of refugees, the role of the various stakeholders, and to enhance the capacity of journalists in disseminating information relating to refugee protection issues in Sierra Leone.”

She added: “I want to inform members of the public that we are no longer resettling Liberian refugees. Some of these individuals have been going around collecting money from people in the guise that they will provide them space in the agency’s resettlement package. I want to make it abundantly clear that we have nothing to do with those that applied for asylum and failed, but rather the 226 that are still having problems with their home country Liberia.”

Head of Programmes at NaCSA, Mohamed Usman Koroma, explained that they conducted interviews for those who applied for asylum but that proper mechanisms have been put in place to ascertain the [factual nature of the information presented] to them by the applicants.

“A good number of these [self-acclaimed] refugees are not actually permissible because they absolutely failed to satisfy the requirements,” said Mr. Koroma. “These are the people now going around making all sorts of negative statements about their refugee status in the country. UNHCR and NaCSA do not owe them any obligation.”

He continued: “If they want to be here they should take Sierra Leonean passport after going through the process because it is guided by law for refugees to respect the laws of their host country. However, some of these fake refugees have been moving from one media institution to another making derogatory statements [against UNHCR and NaCSA].

“In fact we have got report that some of these people are involved in illegal activities, and even planning a protest. We will definitely inform the police, the Office of National Security and other stakeholders to prevent them from engaging in any nefarious activities in Sierra Leone. They pose a security threat, so it is a serious concern.”

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