Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration says Government’s hands are tied in the case of the two former Guantanamo Bay detainees because the previous government granted them refugee status, which has not yet elapsed.
Additionally, there is lack of exit strategy for the two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees that accompanied the agreement signed on the two.
The Minister, in a statement on Wednesday in Parliament, on the matter which some members of the Minority side led by Mr Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs and MP for North Tongu had raised.
The two detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, who were in detention for 14 years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, were brought to Ghana on January 6, 2016, for a period of two years.
The presence of the two former Guantanamo bay detainees has been a matter of national discussion for which President Akufo Addo told a recent media encounter that Parliament, then on recess, would look into the matter when it reconvenes.
So when the House reconvened on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, the ranking member reminded the House of the promise of the President, and wanted to know the status of the two, who are still in Ghana.
Ms Ayorkor Botchwey said the agreement signed between the Government of Ghana and the United States of America specified that, while the US has no obligation to the detainees after the expiration two-year agreement, Ghana has the responsibility to integrate the two into the Ghanaian society.
She said upon assuming office, she engaged the American Ambassador to Ghana, and the indications were that there was no arrangement in terms of exit strategy for the two ex-Guantanamo detainees.
“I did it because of the sentiment expressed by Ghanaians. I feel that one important way to solve this issue was to see if a third country would receive the two former detainees. Unfortunately, we found out at the very last minute…, they have been granted refugee status. That means they can only leave this county if they want”.
“For now it is impossible because they are legal residents as a results of being given refugee status”.
Ms Ayorkor Botchwey, who is also the MP for Anyaa Sowutoum, said Government’s hands are tied but assured the House and Ghanaians that an independent examination of the matter would be carried out to see the way out.
The Minister, who appeared alongside the Interior Minister, Ambrose Dery and the Minister of National Security, Albert Kan-Dapaah, both of whom buttressed the response of the Foreign Minister.
The Minster explained further that “the implication is that, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the 1967 protocol on the Status of refugees, as well as the provisions of the Refugee Law (1992) PNDC Law 305 (d) of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country.”
She noted that the essential component of the refugee status in Ghana “is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution.”
“Accordingly, government is constrained to explore any further options at this time, and will await an in-depth examination of the matter by the appropriate agencies,” Mrs. Botchwey added.