Need to establish internment facility for Ivorian ex-combatants in Ghana – Refugee Board

Mr Ken Dzirasah, Chairman of Ghana Refugee Board, has called on government to establish a separate internment facility for ex-combatants seeking asylum in Ghana.

He said this was necessary to prevent them from being let loose on the streets and stop them from causing trouble at Elubo, where they are currently being kept

He said some of them might be criminals or fugitives from the law who had been recruited to fight in the conflict.

“There is increasing indiscipline in the refugee camp at Elubo and irrespective of what we think the issue of ex-combatants is pivotal to the process and would have to be handled very carefully,” Mr Dzirasah said.

The ex-combatants are people who, through either self-confession or investigations or possessing weapons at the point of entry, had been found to have actively participated in the conflict.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the Tripartite Commission For The Voluntary Repatriation of Ivorian Refugees Living in Ghana in Accra on Tuesday.

Mr Dzirasah said such people needed to be interned and taken through a psychological process in order to “civilianise them for re-integration into society.”

He said although most of those refugees who decided not to be repatriated to La Cote d’Ivoire would want to be resettled in third party states such as France and the United Kingdom, the main alternative would be local integration and the government would review the issue when the need arises.

Mr Dzirasah called on the Commission and stakeholders to extensively engage the refugees since the voluntary nature of the exercise meant it would rely on the goodwill of the people.

“We have no illusions about the enormity of the task especially with hindsight from the Liberian refugee problem and especially since the operative word is “Voluntary”. It will rely on the goodwill of the refugees but that will be ignited by engagements with them,” he added.

Mr Dzirasah called on the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to ensure adequate supply of logistics to make the exercise successful.

Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, inaugurated the Commission and said its establishment was in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Ivorian Refugees Living in Ghana, signed by the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on October 6, 2011.

The Commission made up of a representative each of the Ministries of the Interior, UNHCR and the Refugee Boards of both countries, would be responsible for the policy and oversight functions in the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement and review the progress of work by the technical working group.

Alhaji Mumuni said the agreement only encouraged voluntary repatriation because Ghana was enjoined by its treaty obligations to respect the principle of Non-Refoulement, that is to say force could not be used to repatriate refugees.

“The Commission and Working Group will only process requests made by Ivorian refugees who on their own accord decide to return to Cote d’Ivoire,” he said and appealed to all concerned parties and stakeholders to create conditions conducive for the refugees to voluntarily return to their country.

“A lasting and sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire is an obvious one, if not the best condition that can encourage the voluntary return of these refugees,” he said.

Alhaji Mumuni said those who freely decided to return based on the assurance of their safety and security in Cote d’Ivoire must be assisted by both government as well as the UNHCR to facilitate their return and resettlement.

He appealed to those who would  remain in the country to conform to the laws and regulations of Ghana and endeavour to live in harmony with their local communities.

“In particular, they should refrain from using the territory of Ghana to engage in political or other activities aimed at destabilising the government of Cote d’Ivoire and President Outtara’s Administration.”

Mr Benard Egui-Koutoua, Ivorian Ambassador to Ghana, thanked President John Atta Mills on behalf of President Ouattara for hosting Ivorians during the conflict and urged all stakeholders to put in the maximum efforts to facilitate the return of exiled Ivorians.

Madam Sharon Cooper, UNHCR Representative in Ghana, stressed the need for a coordinated approach to the exercise saying the refugees should have all the information necessary to enable them make the decision to be repatriated and that the information should be relevant.

Madam Cooper called on the Ghana government to facilitate the establishment of their status as refugees in Ghana since they are still regarded as asylum seekers.

Source: GNA

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