President Barack Obama has extended a special status, known as Delayed Enforced Departure, for many Liberians in the United States that will allow them to stay in the U.S. for another year.
From 1989 until 2003, Liberia suffered a series of conflicts among armed groups bent on ruling the resource-rich West African nation. An estimated 200,000 people were killed in the fighting and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee to neighboring nations or overseas. The country's economy was largely destroyed and only now under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are conditions markedly improving.
Since 1991 the United States has provided a safe haven for thousands of Liberian citizens who were forced to flee during the fourteen-year long civil war.
Liberians were allowed to live and work in the U.S. under what is called "temporary protected status", which permitted them to stay in the United States temporarily.
Temporary protected status ended in October 2007, but former President Bush approved Delayed Enforced Departure allowing Liberians to remain through March 31, 2009.
With this year’s deadline looming, representatives of the group asked that they be allowed to stay longer. Conditions in Liberia have improved since the conflict ended in 2003 and more than 250,000 refugees have returned home since then.
This week, President Barack Obama extended the Deferred Enforced Departure deadline for another year, to March 31, 2010. This gives the beneficiaries of the Deferred Enforced Departure extension a chance to plan for their eventual return and more time for conditions in Liberia to continue to improve.