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Opinions of Thursday, 13 December 2018

Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu

The dilemma of Ghanaians abroad

Both the government of Ghana and the authorities concerned have overlooked suspicious travel adverts by certain fake individual tourist agents, illegitimate, unregistered and suspicious travel companies. These individuals and companies very often have their businesses in briefcases with no identifiable office in place.

Their adverts are directed towards the Arab countries while they deceive listeners with mouth-watering contracts. The advertisements assure potential travelers of hotel and restaurant jobs, drivers needed to drive articulated trucks and factory cars, seamstresses and tailors needed for factories and many more. The agents are able to convince Ghanaian potential travellers that they will receive a salary of not less than 2000 dollars a month.

These travellers pay large sums of money for visas and tickets. When these young, unsuspecting and innocent travellers arrive in the Arab countries namely, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria or Lebanon, they are sent to Arab agents who sell them to interested people who use them as housemaids, cleaners and gardeners. They work for many hours a day and sleep for a few hours. They are paid no salary since they are considered as slaves because they were 'bought'. They soon realise that all the good things that were said in the ads were fake and misleading. These boys and girls are subject to harsh treatments and very often denied balanced diet. They often attempt to escape without success and when they are arrested and brought back, the house becomes a living hell for them. The worst of all is that these girls are often raped by their masters.

In a WhatsApp video widely shared, a girl narrated what she saw through the window of her single room. It was indeed a traumatic experience. According to her, the master and wife who lived in the opposite house with a Ghanaian maid and their three children were going out. The maid rushed and opened the gate for their car to pass. She went back to the kitchen to continue her chores. Little did she know that her master's kids had decided to play in the compound of the house. The six year old decided to open the gate. The senior daughter rushed and banged the gate. The long finger of the six year old daughter was trapped in the gate, cutting it off completely. When the master and her wife came home, they blamed the accident on the maid for neglecting the children. According to the maid who observed all, the master kept the maid in the room for three days without food and on the third day he hacked the poor, unprotected girl into pieces. He packed her remains in a sack and took the sack away. Here we remember the brutal murder of Khassoghi in Turkey by Saudi agents.

During the period of slavery, our forefathers fiercely resisted arrest by the slave masters. However, many were arrested, put in chains and thrown into ships en route to America to work in plantations. Those strong and muscular men who were taken from what is now the Central Region were kept on transit in the Caribbean Islands. They made several attempts to escape from the Island which led to their death in the high seas. Those who were left gave up and expressed in Fante, "yenyae monka." According to oral historians, the repetition of these words as they were understood by onlookers gradually became pronounced as "gyaamenka", and that is how the name Jamaica was derived.

Interestingly, today, if an American ship docks at Tema harbour, calling all Ghanaians who want to work on plantations, wash dead bodies, brush the teeth of horses and other hard and menial jobs must join the ship free of charge, you will not believe how many thousands of Ghanaians will rush to join the ship. There will be a stampede!

There are three types of Ghanaians abroad, more especially in the Western countries. The first group are less educated or have no education at all. The second group are those who come as asylum seekers. This group includes educated and uneducated, young and old. Sometimes some people in this group often change their names and countries, thus rendering useless their old certificates. The third group are those who are very well educated. Some have first degrees, Master's and even Doctorate degrees.

The first group who are less educated or have no education at all have serious problems with getting jobs while in Ghana. When they get the chance to travel abroad, they accept any job that comes their way, with or without work and residence permit. The type of jobs they do can be considered as modern day slavery. Some of these include cleaning toilets, offices, shops, train stations and other public areas. There are some of them who unwillingly accept jobs like washing corpses, cleaning horses’ teeth, cleaning old people's toilets, prostitution. Those who are in this group are spread throughout Europe, Asia and America. The sad fact is that a majority of them are living illegally and those who are not lucky are picked from the street and at work places by the police and deported to Ghana leaving behind the money and possessions acquired after so many years of hard work.

The second group are those who come abroad to seek political asylum. They use this as a means of living abroad without fear of being arrested and deported. Ghanaians abroad have a way of describing this situation: aduro die. Explained loosely this means (as having) eating a potion of medicine which will fortify you against evil forces or threats from disease. There are certain Ghanaians who go abroad to study. After a period, they are not able to afford the fees and living expenses. They therefore decide to seek political asylum. The sad thing is that these students in order to hide their identity change their names and dates of birth. They select war-torn countries as their homes of origin. So a Ghanaian now becomes a Sudanese, Kofi Sarpong now becomes Alhassan Muftau, a thirty year old chooses 21 as his age. The dilemma is that such a person will receive his pension when he is 74 years instead of 65. Ennye easy!

Those with degrees may be compelled to accept menial jobs for several reasons. Most of these students studied in countries where English is not the official language. The degree holders may not be proficient in the language of their host country. They may be the best student with a first class in their field of study, but may not be able to find a job befitting their qualifications. Sometimes racism plays a major role in rejecting well educated people for suitable jobs.

A Ghanaian who had Master's in law worked in a hotel changing bedsheets. After five years of working in the hotel, he decided to quit the job and make decisive plan to return home in two years. He bought a car and converted it to a taxi cab. He wanted to save enough and leave within two years. He drove the taxi for sixteen hours daily and slept very little. One Friday, he picked a passenger who was going to Heathrow. The driver stopped at a traffic light. He collapsed on the seat, dead and gone!

Due to the problems we have in Ghana, Ghanaians will continue to rush to foreign countries and give themselves freely to voluntary slavery. This will only end when we put our house in order.

Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu

Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

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