U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Ghana



Refoulement/Physical Protection

Ghana was generally receptive to refugees but authorities collaborated with Togolese security officials to return forcibly at least one Togolese refugee in 2005. Once deported back to Togo, authorities there arrested him and charged him with a criminal offense. The Offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ghana and Benin lodged a complaint with the Ghanaian Minister of Interior who issued a directive to investigate the incident but issued no report. In October, the Minister asked UNHCR for help to repatriate refugees from Darfur, Sudan, claiming they were a threat to internal security, which UNHCR interpreted as a threat to refoule them.

While the 1992 Refugee Law permitted authorities to detain or deport refugees for reasons of national security or public order, it prohibited expelling them to countries where they had reason to fear persecution. The statute also granted all the rights and protections of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The law required asylum seekers to make their applications within 14 days of entry but the Ghana Refugee Board could extend this period. They could apply through the Immigration Service, through the Police, or through UNHCR and the receiving office had to forward the application to the Refugee Board within seven days.

The Refugee Board, on which UNHCR has an observer role, individually screened several hundred refugees from Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, and Sudan and accepted the majority of Sudanese claims. The Board rejected the claims of Sierra Leoneans, who received no UNHCR assistance but nevertheless remained in Buduburam camp. The Sudanese whose claims the Board denied stayed in Krisan camp. Rejected asylum seekers could appeal the Board's decision. According to UNHCR, the Government's refusal to allow Sudanese asylum seekers out of Fort Usher prison for refugee status determinations (RSDs) "compromised some of the key procedural standards for the professional conduct of RSD interviews including privacy and confidentiality."

Some 800 refugees, mostly Togolese and Liberians and nearly half the camp population, left Krisan, marched to the border post of Elubo, on the border with Côte d'Ivoire, and stayed there for a week to protest inadequate food, overcrowding, and lack of refugee documentation, and to seek resettlement. Refugees said the police beat and dragged them at the border, forced their return, and beat them again when they returned to the camp. At the camp, refugees burned a vehicle, the camp manager's office, and a warehouse. According to the U.S. State Department, police fired tear gas and warning shots and, "Several hours after the riot police proceeded from house to house, beating refugees." The refugee-staffed camp clinic saw nearly a hundred refugees including a 16-year-old boy who sustained a fractured right arm and a woman who suffered a miscarriage.

During April and May, 15,500 Togolese fled violence following a disputed presidential election and received prima facie refugee status. Local communities along the border, in the Volta region, and throughout the east of the country hosted them. In addition to the aforementioned Sierra Leoneans, Ghana continued to host the families of some 9,000 Liberians in Buduburam camp even though less than half passed the Refugee Board screening in 2001.

Although UNHCR promoted Liberian returns, fewer than 1,200 volunteered as most said they remained apprehensive that Liberia would again plunge into war. Nearly 1,500 resettled to third countries.

Detention/Access to Courts

Since January, the Government held nearly 270 Sudanese refugees, including some from Darfur, in the dilapidated former Usher Fort prison in Accra while processing their asylum claims. UNHCR sought to bring the asylum seekers to their office for status determinations but the Government refused to allow it although it did grant UNHCR access to the detainees. In July, when two refugees sought to leave the prison to seek medical treatment, the authorities refused permission and violence ensued. Two refugees and two Ghanaians sustained minor injuries. By August, authorities had processed all the claims and, although they still had not issued the refugees identification, transferred them to Krisan camp.

Authorities arrested 11 refugees and sought 50 more in November in connection with the demonstration at the border and arson in Krisan camp. Douhadjui Yao Noah, 1 of the 11, reported that the police beat him, arrested him at the border, and held him for 8 days without treatment for a broken arm. Authorities later released the detainees on bail while they awaited trial. In December, police prevented two U.S. Embassy officials, including the Refugee Coordinator; three journalists; and a German non-governmental organization representative from speaking with refugees.

The law prohibited detaining or otherwise punishing persons claiming refugee status for illegal entry. In April 2006, UNHCR announced a six-week verification exercise by the Government to provide documents to about 12,500 Togolese refugees. Before June, Ghanaian immigration officials arrested and detained eight Sudanese refugees from Krisan whom they found working at a local salt mine for illegal employment. Refugees from Krisan also complained that authorities could arrest and jail them for leaving the camp without permission.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

According to UNHCR, refugees in both Ghana's major refugee camps had freedom of movement although authorities required residents of Krisan camp, near the border with Côte d'Ivoire, which held about 1,700 refugees, including Liberians, Sudanese, Togolese, and Rwandans to inform camp management of their movement in and out of the camp. Refugees in Krisan, however, reported that authorities did not allow them to leave without special permission, that they were subject to arrest and jailing if they did, and that restrictions on leaving the camp for work was contributing to hunger. After the disturbances there in November (above), several hundred refugees lived in hiding in surrounding swamps in fear of arrest.

More than 40,000 Liberian refugees lived in the Buduburam Refugee Settlement, about 25 miles from the capital, Accra, but were free to leave. More than 4,000 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Togo lived in and around Accra.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Ghanaian immigration officials arrested and detained eight Sudanese refugees from Krisan for working in a salt mine in Prampram and fined the mine's owner for illegally employing them.

To work legally, refugees had to apply to the Ghanaian Immigration Service for work permits, which were very difficult to obtain. To apply for permits for skilled positions, refugees had first to submit letters from their prospective employers, along with resumes and passports or UN travel documents. The process took more than a month on average and tied permission to work to particular employers. According to the U.S. State Department, the country's liberal policy toward accepting refugees from other West African nations "did not generally extend to granting work permits."

Because of these restrictions, refugees had to work in the informal economy, usually in construction, agriculture, or as fishermen's assistants. Residents of Buduburam also supported themselves through business activities in and around the camp. There was a market just inside the entrance to the camp at which both refugees and locals traded. Others purchased goods in Accra and resold them out of small stalls in the camp. Selling chilled water and renting access to telephones were other common businesses.

Refugees enjoyed the protection of labor legislation and social security equal to that of nationals. They could also register businesses and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The law treated refugees as ordinary foreigners with respect to establishing enterprises, including higher capital requirements for enterprises that did not include Ghanaian partners.

According to UNHCR, refugees had the same rights to own land as other foreigners, but the complexity of the land tenure system made it impractical and insecure. The Ghanaian land tenure system tied land rights to local traditional rulers whose positions were often in dispute. When the positions changed hands, new leaders sometimes invalidated land transfers made by their predecessors and resold previously sold land. In some cases, refugees leased land in exchange for building homes or other structures on the land that then reverted to the previous owner. Some refugees ended up homeless when their exile outlasted their leases. According to UNHCR, refugees could open bank accounts if they could prove their identity and fulfill other banking requirements.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR gave Liberian refugees in Buduburam camp primary education and vocational training in information technology, masonry, carpentry, and road construction. UNHCR distributed food to 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees as well as to new arrivals. All officially recognized refugees had access to the camp clinic for a nominal fee (less than $2) which was waived for those refugees most vulnerable.

At Krisan camp, which housed 1,700 refugees from a variety of neighboring countries, UNHCR provided free basic education, scholarships for secondary, professional, vocational, and university education, and free skills training and income generating activities. Refugees also had free access to the camp's clinic and the referral hospital in nearby Eykwe.

Ghana did not include refugees in its current Poverty Reduction Strategy paper, which it prepared for international development donors in February 2003.


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