Confronted with the management of 400,000 Liberian refugees fleeing Liberia's civil war in 1990, the Ivorian Government set up an interministerial committee led by the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization. This Interministerial Committee became in 1992 "National Committee for Coordination and Assistance to Liberian Refugees" (CNCARL). Driven by the desire to strengthen the protection of all refugees living in Ivory Coast, the Government, in February 2000, transformed CNCARL into a service called "Help and Assistance Service". Assistance to Refugees and Stateless Persons "(SAARA).
On the instructions of the President of the Republic, SAARA has been attached to the Ministry of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 19 September 2001. SAARA has offices located in the main reception areas for refugees, which allows optimize actions for the target populations. In addition to the Abidjan office (Cocody 7th tranche), SAARA has offices in Tabou, Guiglo and Toulepleu as well as a sub-office in Danané. SAARA works in close collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is responsible for implementing the asylum policy as defined by the Ivorian Government.
The objectives of SAARA are the following:
- Coordinate the management of Ivorian refugees, stateless persons and repatriates;
- Determine refugee status
- Grant international protection and assistance to refugees;
- Collaborate with United Nations agencies and other national and international organizations in the field;
- Ensure respect for the rights and duties of the refugee, and the stateless person through the issuance of identification documents and administrative documents (Refugee Identity Card (CIR), travel document, certificate, pass, etc. .) and the guarantee of their physical security and that of their property;
- Coordinate the care of internally displaced persons;
- Protect repatriates (loss of documents, security) and organize the voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees with UNHCR;
- Monitor and evaluate the activities of humanitarian partners operating on the national territory.
Achievements of the organisation include:
- Realization of a didactic film entitled "A chacun ses papiers", a campaign of sensitization and display of communication media on the risks of statelessness;
- Supported the establishment of 2,212 birth certificates and 2,122 alternative judgments delivered to target populations;
- Training of 825 Magistrates and Civil Status Officers (Mayors, Sub-Prefects and Civil Status Agents) throughout the territory, and following these trainings, 100,000 birth registration requests have been registered.
- Raising awareness of refugees in host countries to encourage them to return voluntarily;
- Voluntary repatriation of more than 240,000 exiles out of the 300,000 who had left Côte d'Ivoire following the post-election crisis, by repatriation convoys facilitated by UNHCR's collaboration;
- Reintegration and follow-up of repatriated refugees, particularly in the education system.
- Drafting of a draft law on asylum;
- Establishment of the Refugee Identity Card;
- Sensitization of law enforcement and civil society on the respect and recognition of the Refugee Identity Card;
- Distribution of ECOWAS biometric passports to Liberian refugees who have chosen local integration;
- Organization of meetings of the National Eligibility Commission and the Appeal Commission.
- Prepare a draft law on Asylum in Côte d'Ivoire and its implementing decrees;
- Implement the Local Refugee Integration Program and the search for other durable solutions;
- Pursue the preparation of administrative documents for the benefit of the populations, especially children;
- Advocate for the extension of the law on the declaration of births during the crisis
- Create Statelessness Eligibility Commissions