Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Ghana Refugee Board encourage Liberians to go home

Previously in Ghana Politics and Security we have mentioned that Liberian refugees currently in Ghana – most of whom arrived in the early 1990s during Liberia's civil war - could be affected by the scheduled end of June 2012 activation of a United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) clause that would remove refugee status from the Liberian refugees who are yet to return home. The loss of refugee status would mean that these Liberians would no longer be protected by the UNHCR or by Ghana's Refugee Board, and would therefore have to leave their current refugee camps, be repatriated, obtain legal right to remain in Ghana, or remain as “aliens”.

Last week the GRB's programme coordinator, Padi Tetteh, stated that, since the announcement of the impending change to their status, only 450 of around 11,000 Liberian refugees have indicated that they are willing to “take advantage of the voluntary repatriation”. After the expiration of a further three month grace period, any remaining refugees will – according to Tetteh – be treated as illegal immigrants unless they had undertaken successful efforts to acquire a legal right to remain in Ghana, and that Buduburam camp to the west of Accra will be closed down.

The Ghanaian authorities are not the only group that are apparently encouraging repatriation because, in the words ofTetteh, “a delegation mission from Liberia is in the country to encourage many refugees to return home” with the assistance of a US$300 dollar (for adults, or 200 for children) repatriation package.

As previously mentioned in Ghana Politics and Security, the UNHCR's Ghanaian “public information officer”, who announced the changes earlier this year had been quick to emphasise that the move had nothing to do with Ghana's upcoming elections. Instead it is the improved conditions in Liberia, the creation of a local Ghanaian Ghana Politics & Security 10

refugee board, and more stable situation in neighbouring Cote D'Ivoire. Nevertheless, should a large number of refugees illegally remain in Ghana following the expiration of the three month grace period this coming autumn, it would be interesting to see how the government and/or the NPP opposition encourage their repatriation.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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