Bookmark and Share

Diaspora: from the Greek, traditionally meaning to sow over or scatter, the modern meaning includes forced expulsion of a given population, dispersal, persecution, a sense of loss, and a vision of return.[1]

It is estimated that of Liberia’s approximately three million people, nearly all fled their homes at some point during the civil war. Some left for a few months or years while others have yet to return.  As many as 780,000 fled across an international border, becoming refugees.[2] Hundreds of thousands of Liberians were internally displaced in any given year during the conflict.[3] This population displacement created a Liberian diaspora on the African continent and around the globe.

Displaced persons often experience what is known as the triple trauma paradigm. This longstanding paradigm posits that refugees experience trauma in the country of origin, during flight, and in the country of refuge.[4] Each phase brings with it unique and recurring traumatic experiences. Whether witnessing atrocities while hiding in their houses, being targeted en route to internally displaced persons’ camps or neighboring countries of refuge, dealing with a seeming endless sojourn in a refugee settlement, or adjusting to life in a third country, the experiences of Liberians in the diaspora are a critical component of the TRC’s analysis.

This report uses the triple trauma paradigm as a framework for considering the Liberian diaspora experience. The first part of this section addresses the mass population displacements that began in 1990 with Charles Taylor’s invasion of Liberia and which continued through 2003, focusing on why and how Liberians fled, as well as the trauma they experienced during flight within Liberia. The second part recounts the experiences of the refugee diaspora in the West African sub-region, with a particular focus on refugees in the Buduburam Settlement in Ghana. The third part addresses the experience of the Liberian diaspora outside of Africa, with a focus on immigrants who have settled in the United States and the United Kingdom.



[1] See Steven Vertovec, The Political Importance of Diasporas Migration Information Source (Migration Policy Institute, Washington, DC, June 2005,

[2] U.N. High Comm’r for Refugees, 2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook: Liberia 400-401 (2007) (listing the total number of Liberian refugees in 1996 at 784,008) [hereinafter U.N High Comm’r for Refugees, Statistical Yearbook],

[3] Id.

[4] R. Baker, Psychological Consequences for Tortured Refugees Seeking Asylum and Refugee Status in Europe, in Torture and its Consequences: Current Treatment Approaches 83-106 (M. Basoglu ed., 1992).


  • Flight
  • Refuge
  • Life after Resettlement
  • The Return