In line with this, NaCSA through the Refugee & Resettlement (R&R) and the Social safety Network (SSN) Programme has engaged Refugee persons of Concern and Community Stakeholders on the UNCHR exit strategy on Refugee programme in Sierra Leone and Government taking ownership.
“This is an annual meeting held with exempted refugees and stakeholders in order to discuss and map out key issues stagnating local integration and the way forward to harmonize such issues. However, this year’s meeting is quite special, as we involved for the first time the Programme Manager of the SSN Programme representing the Commissioner of NaCSA to bring out government’s commitment plan to mainstreaming refugees that opted for local integration into Medium Short Micro Enterprise and Social Safety- nets schemes in the country”… Farama J. Bangura, NaCSA Programme Manager for the Refugee & Resettlement (R&R) Programme addressing Refugee Persons of Concern and Community Stakeholders in Bo on Thursday, February 07, 2019 .
Mr. Bangura narrated the origin of the entire refugee programme in Sierra Leone highlighting Government and UNHCR support in the Care and Maintenance phase onto the three durable solution – repatriation, reintegration and third country resettlement. UNCHR and Government have accomplished a lot of support to refugees, he affirmed. However, UNHCR is planning to completely phase out in December 2019 and Government of Sierra Leone will take ownership of the refugee programme advocating with other MDAs and other UN agencies to include locally integrated refugees into national development programmes and develop the legal framework empowering locally integrated to become self-reliant.
The Relief & Resettlement Programme Manager however, cautioned the Persons of Concern to desist from false expectation and scams on third country resettlement, which is no longer considered as an option for durable solutions in the country and West Africa as a whole. Only those who have opted for local integration would enjoy the support provided by the Government and other MDAs. He announced that a good number of exempted refugees have opted for local integration and encouraged those who have not done so to ensure doing so in order to access local integration package that includes cash grants and legal documentation. The Government of Sierra Leone, he confirmed, is presently facilitating the issuance of residence and work permits to residual caseload that have opted for local integration.
Addressing a group of refugees and stakeholders of refugee community, the Programme Manager SSN, Regina Saffa rechoed government’s commitment to mainstream refugee support into its programmes following an appeal from UNHCR to the World Bank (Co-donor of the SSN). Following a brief background on the SSN programme, she explained the current targeting and implementation strategy and the possible inclusion of refugees. The refugee package, she noted would be different in approach and criteria depending on household demographics; quarterly payments, lump sum and/ or productive inclusion. This opportunity, she noted, is not mandatory but it will come from the refugees themselves. “It is your right to choose what suit you. It is therefore our responsibility to inform you about this option, which, when announced will bring smiles to your face”, she assured. In addition, she presented other NaCSA programmes such as SAGs from which refugee women who reintegrate locally could benefit.
She also used the opportunity to disseminate government’s commitment to provide for the poor and destitute, including persons with severe disabilities including other projects in the pipeline that would target ‘okada’ riders and women’s organizations.
Representing the Civil Society, the Women Forum representative, Md Rosetta Soula expressed delight over the package government has put in place through NaCSA for the refugees and encouraged them to think twice and make the right decision on the government support aiming at changing their socio-economic status.
Similar sentiment was expressed by the Human Right representative at the session. Claude M. Sheriff is Head of Non State Actors overseeing Public funds, Bo District, affirmed his organization’s support in providing the necessary advocacy needed for informed decision by the concerned persons.
Speaking on behalf of the District Council, Councillor Abu Bakarr C. Foray of Ward 291 (Jaiama Chiefdom – Bo District) acknowledged the expressions on the faces of the refugees, noting that such mixed feelings are bound to arise when people receive messages that is contrary to their expectations. However, he stressed the need for the refugees to accept the option that the government is offering now through NaCSA.
Forming highlight of the engagement was a meeting with persons of concern and stakeholders on local integration, assess and validate the residual caseload of exempted refugees in the various settlements. This was done to provide them with local integration package and mainstreaming them into Social Safety-nets project as part of Government’s response to its commitment in taking ownership of the refugee programme. It is in line with the UNHCR Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which aims at empowering locally integrated refugees become self-reliance for a sustainable integration.