WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama has granted Liberian nationals, who fled the civil wars and strife in their homeland after 1991, an additional 18 months of Deferred Enforced Departure status because Liberia is not stable enough to assimilate the nearly 4,000 Liberians who would otherwise be deported.
In 1991, the U.S. began accepting Liberian refugees and granted them temporary protective status which allowed them to live and work in the U.S. until the government determined that it was safe for them to return to Liberia. In 2007 the temporary protective status was set to expire as a moderately stable civilian administration had been elected in Liberia.
However, then President George W. Bush provided the Liberians a deferred enforced departure which allowed them to live and work in the U.S. until the President decided that conditions in Liberia could support their return.
After his election, President Obama granted a 12 month extension of the deferred enforced departure status. His most recent order extends it until November 2011.
While Liberia is said to want to repatriate some of the estimated 70,000 of its refugees around the world, conditions in the country could not support a mass return. There are approximately 250,000 people of Liberian descent in the U.S. However, only about 7,000 arrived after 1991 and only 4,000 are covered by the status extension.
In addition to local conditions being inadequate to support large scale repatriation, Liberia depends on the $65 million in remittances, the nation’s largest source of foreign exchange, sent home by the diaspora community each year.
The Republic of Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves who had been settling in the colony on the central West African coast since 1822. A military coup in 1980 set off nearly two decades of civil war and foreign intervention which finally ended in 2003 with assistance from the U.S. as part of a United Nation’s force. Today, Liberia is led by the first elected female head of state in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.