After declaring a national emergency in late March 2020, the Liberian government used emergency powers that enable it to require the registration of residents in infected areas, restrict movement within infected areas, and quarantine infected people. The government designated two of the 15 counties in the country as infected and imposed a 21-day lockdown along with the closure of schools, suspension of flights, and limitations to public transport. As of 11 December, Liberia had recorded 1,676 cases of COVID-19 and 83 deaths.
At UNHCR’s Executive Committee held in Geneva in October, Liberia reported that it was hosting 8,235 refugees, the vast majority from Côte d’Ivoire. The government reported collaboration with UNHCR in a Joint Taskforce aimed at raising awareness of COVID-19, distributing preventive materials, and providing food items in the refugee concentrated counties of Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Gadeh and River Gee, and Maryland.
Political tensions in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire have forced thousands of Ivorian nationals to flee into neighbouring countries (see 4 December Côte d’Ivoire update on this platform), including Liberia. According to UNHCR, by 9 November, more than 7,500 Ivorian nationals had fled to Liberia. More than 60 percent of arrivals are children, some of whom are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents. UNHCR stated that they were planning to send essential relief items for refugees in Liberia from their stockpiles in Dubai.
On 23 November, UNHCR airlifted 95 tonnes of emergency supplies as nearly 15,000 Ivorians are now in Liberia. A UNHCR-chartered flight landed in Monrovia with blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, plastic sheets, and solar lamps for refugees. The UNHCR representative in Liberia said: “Every day this past week, hundreds of Ivorian refugees have continued to cross the border. … Most are children, arriving exhausted and malnourished. The needs are mounting, and we are stepping up to meet them.”
As regards the country’s prisons, since the start of the pandemic, Prison Fellowship Liberia, an organisation that seeks to provide help and support to prisoners in Liberia, has obtained the provisional release of 300 detainees. The prison administration found on 10 June 2020 that there were 2,300 prisoners compared with 2,700 in December 2019.
The GDP has been unable to establish the extent to which detention facilities are used in Liberia as part of immigration enforcement procedures or obtain details on COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration custody.
- UNHCR, “Le HCR Intensifie l’Aide Humanitaire; Le Nombre des Réfugiés Ivoiriens Dépasse les 8000,” 10 November 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/fr/news/briefing/2020/11/5faa6581a/hcr-intensifie-laide-humanitaire-nombre-refugies-ivoiriens-depasse-8000.html
- UNHCR, “UNHCR Airlifts Emergency Aid for Ivorian Refugees in Liberia,” 23 November 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2020/11/5fbb9f9f4/unhcr-airlifts-emergency-aid-ivorian-refugees-liberia.html
- Worldometers, “Liberia: Coronavirus Cases,” accessed on 8 December 2020, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/liberia/
- Republic of Liberia (Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission), “Special Statement Delivered by the Liberian Government at the 71st Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme in Geneva,” 5-9 October 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/afr/5f96df084.pdf
- UNHCR, “Operational Portal: Refugee Situations: Liberia,” accessed on 8 December 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/lbr
- UNHCR, “Liberia,” accessed on 8 December 2020, https://reporting.unhcr.org/node/2548?y=2020#year
- Prison Insider, “Fièvre des Prisons: Libéria,” accessed on 8 December 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/afrique-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons
- H. Goitom, “Liberia Government Measures to Contain the Spread of COVID-19,” Library of Congress, 5 May 2020, https://blogs.loc.gov/law/2020/05/liberia-government-measures-to-contain-the-spread-of-covid-19/
- Liberian Code of Laws Revised, Public Health Law, Title 33, http://www.liberlii.org/cgi-bin/disp.pl/lr/legis/codes/phlt33lcolr429/phlt33lcolr429.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=public%20health%20law
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Liberia,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/liberia#statistics-data
- Newly Arrived Refugees from Côte d’Ivoire Await Registration in Behwalay Village in Liberia, (UNHCR, Roland Tuley, “UNCHR Airlifts Emergency Aid for Ivorian Refugees in Liberia,” 23 November 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2020/11/5fbb9f9f4/unhcr-airlifts-emergency-aid-ivorian-refugees-liberia.html)