Liberian Refugees in Ghana Deported

From the International Herald Tribune, the only media who deemed news worthy this AP wire from Monrovia:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

MONROVIA, Liberia: Thirty Liberian refugees expelled from Ghana were expected home on Sunday amid disagreement between the two countries about the best way to deal with thousands of refugees, government officials said.

Liberia’s Information Minister Laurence Bropleh said in a radio broadcast Saturday that the “first batch” of nine women and 21 men would be met off the plane by senior officials and given temporary housing.

More than 40,000 Liberian refugees are still in Ghana, where they fled during the nation’s violent civil war that began in 1989. Hundreds were reportedly rounded up last week by Ghanaian security forces in a refugee camp an hour’s drive outside Accra, Ghana’s capital.

The refugees, mainly women, had reportedly been staging a sit-in to protest the relief package the U.N. refugee agency was offering them to return home.

The two countries have held talks for several months about how best to deal with the refugee issue and a four-man Liberian team arrived in Ghana Saturday to try to resolve the dispute.

Liberia’s civil war ended five years ago, when warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor agreed to go into exile. Since then, refugees in Ghana, as well as in Guinea and Ivory Coast have been slowly returning.

Bropleh said Ghana’s government had informed them the repatriation was “due to the continued breach of Ghana’s public order laws” by some refugees.

“The government of Liberia wishes to assure our citizens being returned and the general public that everything is being done to provide adequate care and support for our affected citizens, as well as continued dialogue with the Ghanaian government so as to amicably resolve this crisis,” Bropleh said.

What’s amazing is that there is NO word of the gross human and refugee rights abuses going on in Ghana, that there is no mention of the 500 women and children still being detained, that there is no word on the lack of due process for these individuals… The Ghanaian government is manipulating the media, trying to justify their wrong doing by saying things like “there was a total break down of law and order”, and that the refugees were threatening public order… Give me a break.

Seriously. Give me a break.

How can one construe a peaceful protest by refugee women as a breach of Ghana’s public order law? One might refer to the Public Order Act of 1994, which forbids large gatherings of people unless the government has been notified (hello democracy!). In any case, the protest was taking place within the confines of the refugee settlement, and in spite of causing disruption in the daily life of the community as schools were shut down and the market place slowed to a trickle, it remained orderly and peaceful.

Moreover, the grievances put forward by the refugees were mostly targeted at the UNHCR and the international community at large, asking them for greater support in repatriation packages – albeit, the women’s group had a set of impractical, unrealistic demands – but shouldn’t we commend them for the way in which they conducted themselves? The arrest and detention of hundreds of women and children is simply sickening – Ghanaian law does not allow detention to last more than 48 hours without a mandate to do so. And as the brilliant lawyer who’s been advocating on the side of the refugees has pointed out, this is a matter for the courts to settle, not the Interior Minister of Ghana. And let’s not even mention the complete inaction of the UNHCR, which, I’ve decided I have completely lost faith in.

I’m not well-connected – I don’t know any high powered politicians, media figures or celebrities. That’s a shame for the Liberian refugees. It seems, these days, that to get the world’s attention on the plight of the underprivileged, you need to be listed in Fortune 100, or, alternatively, be voted as one of People magazine 50 hottest women of the year.

As C. says, “let’s continue fighting the Good fight”

2 thoughts on “Liberian Refugees in Ghana Deported

  1. thank you so much for blogging about this– i was starting to feel all alone in my efforts to draw attention to what’s been happening at buduburam over the last month.

    i have also called various news outlets … to no avail. buduburam is in a difficult position since it is such an established camp that no western reporters are left there, really..

    i’m currently in michigan so if i can do anything to help you from here (i know it’s difficult to reach across the ocean); PLEASE send me an email– it’s carrie.hadler[at]gmail.com.

    additionally, i have raised boxes and boxes worth of school supplies for buduburam with the help of michigan middle school students. if this is something your nonprofit would be able to help with in the future (or with the distribution at buduburam– I initially raised them only for CYE because i have contacts there but it really is too many supplies for just one school, i think), i’d love to talk with you about that. this batch is shipping out on april 18th.

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