GHANA-LIBERIA: A road-map to end stand-off over refugees

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Ghanaian government said it will stop deporting Liberian refugees and made an agreement with the Liberian government to work with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to draw up a roadmap to repatriate the 40,000 Liberian refugees currently living in Ghana. 

“We hope [The repatriation] can be carried through without bitterness and embarrassment to either of the two countries,” Ghana’s President Kufuor John Kufuor told the press following three days of talks with a high-level Liberian delegation led by its foreign Minister Mrs Olubanke King-Akerele

Ghana intends to proceed “in a way that would not harm relations between the two West African nations,” he added.

End of a stand-off

The talks follow a month-long stand-off between Liberian refugees and Ghanaian authorities over their repatriation. The stand-off led to the deportation of 16 of the refugees, despite 13 of them being legally registered, and the detention of 600 others, mostly women and children.

Troubles started in late February when 500 of the refugees delivered a petition to the UNHCR and the Ghana Refugee Board with three demands, one of which was that they did not want to be integrated into Ghanaian society.

Instead they demanded to be resettled in a third country, preferably in Europe. They said they would return to Liberia but only if they were provided with US$1,000 each – ten times the amount UNHCR was offering.

The refuges held a month-long demonstration and were eventually arrested because their protest had not been authorised by authorities.

Liberia’s Foreign Minister apologised to Ghana’s president and his team at the presidential palace saying her government “does not condone any such acts that contravene the country’s laws.”


The Ghanaian government wants the refugee returns to start within six months, Ghana’s Deputy Information Minister Frank Agyekum told IRIN. But he said the Liberian delegation had impressed on the Ghanaian government not to rush the  repatriation process.

With Liberia’s economy fragile following 14 years of civil war Agyekum said the Liberian delegation’s “main concern was the negative impact the influx of 40,000 refugees will have on that country’s recovering economy.”

The delegation is set to return to Liberia and consult with its president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleef, before agreeing to a fixed start-date.

Source: IRIN