Spotlight on Refugees in Ghana

By Fred Boasiako Antwi a Social Commentator

It is not out of place to extend a helping hand to a person or group of people who need help. In fact, the holy book in James 2 amplifies this fact when the Apostle quizzed the Gentiles; if a brother comes to you without food or water and you say to him; go I wish u well, get fed and well clothed without doing anything about the person’s physical needs, what have u done? Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in 1948, guarantees the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries. The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

This is now considered a rule of customary international law of which the UNHCR serves as the ‘guardian’ of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocols. The United Nations Convention on Refugee and Asylum Seekers recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum anywhere in the world they deem safe.

Ghana is a signatory to the 1948 declaration of the UN Charter and so is obliged to open its doors to persons who are seen or considered refugees or asylum seekers. This, the country despite its sovereign status has religiously carried out over the years. The Buduburam camp at Kasoa in the Central Region was put up in the 1990’s to accommodate persons who were then fleeing the civil war in Liberia. Prior to this, the country had witnessed an influx of other nationals from the African continent mainly due to trade with many opting to adopt Ghana as their new home. If Ghana were a person, Hospitality would be her perfect surname. Over the years however,

Ghana’s laws on asylum seekers or refugees appears to have been ditched in the mud with many taking advantage of her sleepy laws and enforcement much to the detriment of the host nation. Recently, Liberians at the budumburam camp vehemently opposed government’s decision to demolish the camp in its quest to resettle occupants and free the community of its notoriety for being a haven for hardened criminals.

According to the refugees who have now been infiltrated by Nigerians, it was simply out of place for the government of Ghana to evict them if they have come to own or inherit. In a rather strange turn of events, the Government backed down, further emboldening their claims much to the surprise of many citizens. Imagine hosting a guest for dinner and later refusing to leave because he had sat at the table for so long, he could lay claim to it. This is perhaps so because we have simply looked on and seem to enjoy the troubling spectacle of asylum seekers overstepping their boundaries.

We are globally recognized as a hospitable nation but that cannot be sacrificed on the altar of law and order. A section of the nation’s capital Accra which has become a de facto refugee camp is the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. So called refugees from neighboring countries to the north of Ghana have besieged the area and literally held the place hostage with their activities. Children of this new wave of migrants, some who are suspected to have been trafficked ambush commuters with their begging antics.

The relevant authorities don’t seem to be overly concerned about their status or occupation. Children of school going age aimlessly parading the streets of Circle and day old babies in the clutches of their mothers seem to have miraculously gone undetected by the ministry for Gender. With these migrants settling into an already porous area, the recipe could soon be ripe for another organized chaos. We could soon have an urban Buduburam on hands and the consequences this time could be dire if we continue to play ostrich.

The Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly under whose jurisdiction the mess is happening has turned a blind eye focusing rather on petty traders who are trying to make ends meet after the Odornaa market was raised down by fire a few years ago.

The Kwame Nkrumah Circle as it appears is a ticking time bomb ready to escalate is nothing is done immediately to clear the area of those refugees who clearly appear untouchable and above the laws of Ghana.

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