The Minister for the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, has called for collaboration among partner institutions in refugee protection to ensure that the rights of refugees, as well as the security of the state, are not compromised.
He said while securing the rights of asylum seekers at the various entry points, there was the need to ensure that the laws of the land and the security of the state were not overlooked.
Mr Dery was speaking at the opening of a two-day dialogue on the protection of refugees in international and Ghana law in Accra yesterday.
Organised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) and the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the dialogue aims at enhancing cooperation among partners in refugee protection.
Mr Dery noted that Ghana had a good asylum policy which provided the necessary guidance for persons intending to seek asylum.
Impact of COVID-19
The minister said due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries were employing restrictive policies as a means of enhancing security.
However, he said, in spite of the crisis, human rights standards needed to be upheld.
“It is clear that we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever. Nonetheless, it is important to state that refugee protection is not a matter of charity but an obligation under the 1951 Convention on Refugee Status and other binding regional instruments,” Mr Dery said.
“We have caseloads of protracted refugee situations, including Togolese, Sierra Leonean, Rwandan and Burundian refugees. We all agree that nobody should remain a refugee forever and it is my expectation that everything will be done to help bring their refugee statuses to an end,” he added.
Support from UNHCR
Mr Dery commended the UNHCR for its continuous assistance to Ghana’s refugee management partners.
He recalled that under its COVID-19 Assistance Fund, the UNHCR started and completed numerous infrastructure projects in 2020.
In that regard, he gave an assurance that the ministry would continue to identify areas where it could work with the UNHCR and other international partners to build on the strong foundation that had already been established.
The United Nations Resident Co-ordinator in Ghana, Mr Charles Paul Abani, noted that coordination and collaboration were key to ensuring that the rights of refugees were protected while maintaining national security.
He said he was excited that Ghana saw the connection between the two as a holistic approach to addressing issues of asylum.
“Refugees are also human beings; they come to seek asylum in other countries due to displacing circumstances. We know that the sub-region faces a number of security challenges, as well as challenges created by the COVID-19,” he said.
For that reason, Mr Abani said, his office was working with the UN to ensure that governments in the sub-region were able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to overcome and build back better.
That, he said, would enable people to stay in their countries and not be displaced.
In her submission, the Country Representative of the UNHCR, Mrs Esther Kiragu, commended Ghana for being among the countries in the world that had the most progressive asylum policy which ensured that refugees were not locked up in camps.
She noted that Ghana had friendly policies for refugees that ensured that their rights were prioritised, while basic needs, such as health, education and safety, were also provided for them.
In that regard, she said, the UNHCR would continue to expand Ghana’s infrastructure to ensure that it would not be overburdened by the influx of refugees.