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General News of Sunday, 30 September 2007

Source: United Nations

Togolese Repatriation From Ghana Kicks Off

A group of 176 men, women and children are the first Togolese refugees to return home from Ghana by road convoy with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

They are among 1,700 Togolese refugees in eastern Ghana's Volta region who have registered with the agency to seize on easing tensions and return to their home country.

UNHCR is giving priority to those refugees who wish to return in time for Togo's parliamentary election on 14 October.

Among those in the first group of returnees, Akoko, 32, said he hopes to fight for freedom and democracy in Togo, while Ametipe, a mother of two, plans to establish a small business.

The refugees will travel to Danyi prefecture in Togo's Plateau region before continuing their journeys to their respective home villages or towns.

"Today marks a new beginning," said UNHCR's Ghana chief Aida Haile Mariam at this week's departure ceremony. "While Togo is still in the process of political reform, these 176 Togolese refugees have decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to return to their home country in the context of the voluntary repatriation exercise organized by UNHCR and the Ghana Refugee Board."

UNHCR and its partners will provide a return package, which includes a $120 cash grant per adult and $60 per child, clothing, mosquito nets, mats, buckets, soap, hygiene kits and food rations for two months.

Following the eruption of violence after the April 2005 installation of the son of the late Gnassingbe Eyadema as Togo's president, tens of thousands of Togolese fled to neighbouring Ghana and Benin. UNHCR provides assistance to 13,300 remaining Togolese refugees in the two countries.

Thousands have already returned on their own from Ghana, which hosts over 42,000 refugees from numerous countries, including some 8,500 from Togo.