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US visa sanctions on Ghana unjustified – Ministry

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has expressed disappointment with the decision by the United States to implement visa sanctions on Ghana for alleged lack of adequate cooperation in accepting Ghanaian nationals ordered removed from the US.

It said those allegations were unfounded and the sanctions imposed on Ghana were without any justification.

Ghana as a sovereign country has the duty to, and would continue to, protect her nationals all over the world by ensuring that appropriate processes were undertaken in all issues relating to her citizens deportation from other countries, the Ministry said.

A statement issued by the Ministry’s Public Affairs Directorate and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, said the Government had always cooperated with the US authorities in the processing and removal of Ghanaian citizens who had been cited for deportation from the US to Ghana.

It said the Government of Ghana was worried about past experiences where Ghanaian deportees were sent home in belly chains and physically cuffed to their seats on the aircrafts.

It, therefore, urged the US Government to recognise and ensure the deportation processes are consistent with international best practices and national laws, and must uphold the dignity of the people involved at all times including those convicted of crimes.

The statement said the Ministry was assessing the situation and would institute appropriate measures within the context of international laws and the bilateral relations between the two countries in due course.

It said in accordance with international laws the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC undertook identification and verification processes to ensure that all persons earmarked for deportation to Ghana are bona fide citizens of Ghana.

Countries all over the world undertook those processes to accept their deported citizens, and it is not peculiar to Ghana and the US situation, the statement said.

It said the identification and verification mechanisms had stipulated timelines and procedures, which were communicated to the deporting authorities at all times.

As at January 8, 2019, Ghana’s Mission in Washington DC had received 20 applications from the US authorities, out of which 19 had been interviewed by the Embassy and 11 travelling certificates issued for their travel back to Ghana.

Those outstanding are as a result of doubt on their Ghanaian nationality, ill health and pending litigation in US courts.

The statement said the US authorities had verbally informed the Ministry that there were about 7,000 Ghanaians who were at different stages of deportation proceedings.

However, there has not been any confirmation by the US authorities of a final court order for their removal in accordance with the US own laws.

It, therefore, expressed surprise that the US authorities would ignore the international protocols that need to be observed in matters of deportation and make allegations of lack of cooperation by Ghana.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday, February 1,2019, announced in coordination with the Department of State, the implementation of visa sanctions on Ghana due to lack of adequate cooperation in accepting her nationals ordered removed from the United States.

It said it is in pursuant of the US authority, under Section 243 (d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, notified Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Government of Ghana had denied or unreasonably delayed accepting its nationals ordered removed from the United States.

As a result, Secretary of State Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants.

It said without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of those sanctions may be expanded to a wider population.

The sanctions would remain in place until the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies Secretary Pompeo that cooperation on removals had been approved to an acceptable level.

Source: GNA

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