Ghana hosted about 12,000 refugees at the end of 2001, including some 9,000 from Liberia, about 2,000 from Sierra Leone, and nearly 1,000 from Togo. About 1,000 new asylum seekers entered the country during the year.
Approximately 10,000 Ghanaian refugees remained in Togo at year's end.
Refugees from Liberia
Thousands of Liberian refugees and asylum seekers fled to Ghana in 1990-91 to escape Liberia's civil war. Smaller numbers arrived in subsequent years, including about 1,000 new asylum seekers during 2001.
Most Liberian asylum seekers lived in Buduburam camp, 25 miles (40 km) from Accra, the capital. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) halted its aid program to Buduburam camp in 2000 because most camp occupants were judged to be economically self-sufficient. Concerns remained, however, that Liberian families' efforts to support themselves were hampered by high unemployment rates in Ghana. Many refugee families relied on remittances from relatives and friends living abroad.
During 2001, UNHCR helped the government conduct individual interviews of Buduburam camp occupants for the first time to assess their claims to refugee status. The screening procedure concluded that only 4,000 of 15,000 Liberian asylum seekers merited refugee status.
Simmering tensions between Liberian refugees and the local population erupted into violence in early 2001. After refugees in Buduburam camp clashed with Ghanaian police during a dispute, local residents attempted to retaliate. Refugee leaders blamed newly arrived Liberian asylum seekers for instigating the melee. Rising crime and prostitution were also problems in the vicinity of Buduburam camp.
Ghanaian authorities reiterated their plan to close Buduburam camp eventually and move genuine Liberian refugees to a new site where they would receive training to acquire new skills to support themselves economically. However, many Liberian refugees continued to oppose the planned move, and the camp remained open all year.
The Ghanaian government blocked entry to about 160 Liberian passengers when their ship docked in Ghana in June. Although authorities allowed non-Liberian passengers to disembark, they ordered the ship to depart before UNHCR or Ghana's Refugee Commission could determine whether any Liberian passengers were seeking asylum. The ship eventually landed in Nigeria, where some Liberian passengers applied for asylum.
Approximately 600 Liberian refugees departed Ghana during 2001 to resettle permanently in the United States and other Western nations as part of a formal international resettlement program.
Refugees from Sierra Leone
About 2,000 refugees who fled civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s continued to live in Ghana.
About half of the refugees resided at Krisan camp, where UNHCR provided food, shelter, water, health care, and education. More than 80 percent of children at the camp attended primary school. The camp offered land for farming, and about 200 refugee families have participated in special agricultural projects and skills training.
Most other Sierra Leonean refugees lived in Accra. About 200 Sierra Leonean refugees left Ghana during 2001 to resettle permanently abroad, including in the United States, as part of an organized international resettlement program.
Ethnic conflict linked to land disputes uprooted about 100,000 people in northern Ghana during 1994-95, including at least 10,000 Ghanaians who fled to neighboring Togo.
Although most uprooted families returned to their homes after the violence subsided, some 10,000 Ghanaian refugees remained in Togo during 2001. Ghanaian officials joined with UNHCR to meet with the refugees during the year and encourage them to repatriate, but relatively few registered to do so.
Three days of violence in northeast Ghana killed 30 to 50 people and temporarily displaced 5,000 persons in December. Government officials planned to establish a commission to investigate the violence.