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General News of Saturday, 5 November 2005

Source: Graphic

500 Refugees Revolt

More than 500 refugees have broken loose from the refugee camp at Krisan in the Nzema East District of the Western Region and crammed into an area at the Elubo border citing poor feeding and accommodation conditions.

The refugees, who are from 10 countries in Africa, relocated at Elubo, claiming it was an attempt to draw international attention to their plight.

Their spokesman, Kennedy Vanyan, a Liberian, alleged that they were poorly accommodated and were being fed on meagre food supplies of three cups of rice for a month, two tins of tuna fish, a cup of sugar, one small bag of salt and 12 kilogrammes of maize.

He further alleged that the refugees had been made to sleep in groups of five in one room, creating overcrowding which could precipitate infections.

UNHCR Dismisses Allegations

However, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), responsible for assisting governments to protect and take care of refugees and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), which has oversight responsibility for the management of the refugee camp had dismissed the allegations.

They said those disgruntled refugees were making those allegations in order to draw attention and win sympathy so that they could be resettled in developed countries such as the United States of America, Canada and Australia.

The Krisan Refugee Camp, with capacity to accommodate more than 2,000 refugees, was set up by the Ghana government in 1996 in the wake of the Liberian conflict.

At the moment, the camp is hosting about 1,700 refugees from African countries.

It has a police post, a clinic, a library, a school and a recreation centre. The rooms and surroundings of the camp are fumigated every three months.

Currently, Ghana hosts a grand total of 64,000 refugees mainly from Sudan, Cote d?Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Congo DR, Congo Brazaville and Somalia.

The Ghana government,UNHCR, World Food Programme and agencies such as the Catholic Relief Agency are providing various forms of support for the sustenance of the refugees.

It has been noted that refugees have been fleeing to Ghana because of the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality and relative peace in the country.

Last July, asylum seekers from Sudan, whose status was still being determined by the authorities, inflicted a machete wound on an official of the Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Mr Isaac Asomani, his arm got fractured and they chased him, together with the policeman on duty, Constable John Ali, out of the fort.

Using firewood as their weapon the asylum seekers broke the door to the reception of the fort before attacking the two officers.

According to the spokesman of the refugees, Mr Vanyan, apart from the lack of adequate accommodation and also poor feeding, the refugees were not healthy and lacked educational facilities.

He said some of the refugees had been in the camp for nine to 14 years without any documents covering their status as refugees.

He added that they had been given only identity cards, which in themselves did not confer on them any privilege or rights.

Mr Vanyan said the refugees had met with officials of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Ghana Police Service and Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) at Elubo to discuss their plight.

Unfortunately, he explained the officials of the three organisations said they could not solve the problem for them.

When contacted on telephone, Mr Padmore Kofi Nyankopa-Arthur, Western Regional Co-ordinator of NADMO, said the Krisan Refugee Camp was among the best if not the best refugee camp in Africa.

He said it was sited close to the Eikwe Catholic Hospital, which served as a referral health facility and to good schools in the area to ensure that the refugees had access to good health facility and education.

Mr Nyankopa-Arthur explained that there were a few refugees who were urging some of their colleagues to flee the Krisan Camp as wa to win public sympathy.

He said there were three arrangements for resettlement of refugees and explained that one of the arrangements was that the refugee could decide to go on voluntary repatrration to his or her country especially when peace had been restored to that country.

Under the second arrangement, the refugee can apply to be reintegrated into the host country such as Ghana.

The third option is that the refugee can be resettled in a developed country.

Mr Nyankopa-Arthur observed that most of the refugees preferred to be resettled in a developed country.

He has said that the USA, Canada and Australia are the countries which often apply to receive refugees.

Mr Nyankopa-Arthur added that although the Sudanese refugees resettled in Ghana only six months ago, they had been fortunate to be offered resettlement packages by the USA, a development which refugees from other countries had become envious of.

According to him, Ghana government and UNHCR did not control the offers made by countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia and that the countries provided forms for the refugees to fill, then the countries did their selection.

UNHCR Explains Concept

A statement issued by UNHCR, in response to the concerns of the refugees, said it was the responsibility of the commission to assist the Ghana government to provide protection and security for the refugees.

It stressed that a comprehensive registration ensured that all the refugees received equal access to available assistance.

In addition, the statement said, the entire population of refugees received full care and maintenance including shelter in individual permanent houses, 2100, calorie daily food basket free, with referral to the district hospital at Ekwe.

They also received items including bed nets, insecticide spray, cooking utensils, mattresses, buckets, sanitary towels, local stoves, charcoal and kerosene.

The UNHCR has provided free basic education, including supply of uniforms, and books to all refugee children, scholarship opportunities for secondary, professional and vocational training as well as university education.

Currently, the statement said, there was an ongoing free skills training with a recent expansion of income generating activities in an effort to promote self-reliance within the refugee population.

The UNHCR notes that although the refugee programme globally has gaps as a result of funding shortfalls, the commission was doing its best under the circumstances to meet established standards.

However, it has given assurance that in partnership with the Ghana Government, the commission would continue to provide protection and assistance to the refugees until such time that a lasting solution is found to their predicaments.