More than 1,800 Ivorians have taken advantage of an assisted return programme this year, Interior Minister, Ambrose Dery, has announced.
The figure, he said, represented about 96 per cent of those processed since the beginning of accelerated voluntary repatriation in 2021, noting “this is progressing and a clear indication that it is now safe to return home”.
Mr Dery announced this at this year’s World Refugee Day held at the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Ellembelle District of the Western Region on Monday, on the theme ‘The Right to Seek Safety – whoever, wherever and whenever’.
Ampain community has been the host of Ivorian refugees since 2011, when war broke out in their home country.
The Government of Ghana, he assured, had provided a humanitarian corridor for various refugees to return home voluntarily.
“Let me assure all refugees that Ghana is going to approach a durable solutions humanely, and with love. We’re not going to throw anybody out as if you’re an outcast. No. Be assured,” Mr Dery told the Ivorians.
The Interior Minister added, “We are going to continue to give the humanitarian corridor, for we have the obligations to ensure that those who want to return home go in safety and dignity. This year’s theme is on the right to seek safety. Yes, whoever you are, wherever you are and whenever it is. That the right to seek safety is something that we see as real and should be respected”.
He said the President’s goal in the security arena was to make every person in Ghana, every person, not citizens, to feel safe, including the refugees “who are part of us”.
Mr Dery said recently Ghana appealed to the Ivorian government to open their borders, but again said “we have not held back. We’ve got to continue to deal with you in the best way possible”.
“Government of Ghana provided a humanitarian corridor for Ivorians to return home voluntarily even when the country’s borders were closed at the height of the pandemic. Ghana shall continue to fulfill her obligations to ensure that refugees return home in safety and in dignity,” he added.
He said a few unscrupulous persons who were refugees came from Nigeria and Burkina Faso, but cautioned that “as a matter of necessity, they must abide by the laws of the country and this there is no compromise.”
Chairman of Ghana Refugee Board, Professor Ken Attafuah, said at the height of the influx, Ampain had hosted about 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Africa, making it the biggest refugee camp in Ghana, but now with a gradual and progressive voluntary return, the number had reduced significantly.
He added that “All refugees have comported themselves so well and lived within the various host communities all these years and are model.”
Baase Patrice, a leader of the refugees, urged the government to respond swiftly to concerns of voluntary repatriation.
For his part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Ghana, Esther Kiragu, has urged Ivorian refugees to exercise patience while government continued to ensure their safe repatriation home.
She stated, “No person will be forced to leave the country. We are dealing with human beings. It’s a process, don’t panic. I know we are talking about June 30, 2022, when cessation will be invoked.
“But, remember, we started promoting returns in 2018 and quite a number of people have returned. Nobody has been forced, it’s a personal choice for people who have opted to be assisted in return, and about 2000 have returned so far.”
“It’s not easy, after 10 years, to be told it’s time for you to go home. We understand– Change doesn’t come easy. But I want to say one thing, in Cote d’Ivoire today, as I stand here, so is the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filippo Grandi, celebrating World Refugee Day with everybody else.
She explained that the invocation of cessation did not mean “we’ve stop everything, it means the processes that are still ongoing.”