Ghana’s progressive asylum system hailed as the country joins the rest of the world to mark World Refugee Day

A 'durbar' community gathering was held this year to mark World Refugee Day at the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Western Region.

Deputy Minister for the Interior, Mr. Henry Quartey has called on countries in the sub-region to work together to ensure that the causes of conflict are eliminated in the society.

He was speaking at a durbar to mark this year’s World Refugee Day at the Ampain Refugee Camp in the Western Region. Touching on the theme for this year which is ‘Taking a step with refugees’, the Deputy Minister said over the years, Ghana as a country has supported people who have been forced to flee their countries of origin as refugees. “Since the early 1990s, Ghana is proud to say that we have made available critical provisions to fulfil our obligations and commitments to refugees on the shores of the country” he noted adding that Ghana’s past open-minded policy of Pan-Africanism which extended recognition and right of abode to any one of African descent to a large extent inculcated a generous refugee policy environment conducive and hospitable for the choice of the country as a preferred destination for people in the sub-region and beyond.

He said Ghana has handled over 60,000 refugees in the past and is currently hosting about 13,500 refugees from over 36 different countries across the globe, many of whom are in protracted situations.

Mr. Quartey indicated that a distinctive feature of the operational policy framework in Ghana is that privileges available to all citizens in terms of a supportive enabling environment and access to essential services are extended to all asylum seekers and refugees in the country. “Refugees have a choice of residential location, free movement and establishing means of livelihood, as well as acquiring travel documents” he noted.

The Deputy Interior Minister called on refugees and asylum seekers in Ghana to abide by the laws of the country. “Whiles here, they have a responsibility to respect the laws of the country. Everyone irrespective of status is subject to the laws of Ghana and will be dealt with if they fall foul of the law” he cautioned.

Mr. Quartey said government will work with UNHCR and all Partners to create livelihood opportunities at refugee camps and within host communities in line with the global compact on refugees.

In her remarks, UNHCR Representative, Ms. Esther Kiragu congratulated the government and people of Ghana for hosting refugees over the years and for the progressive asylum policy and the Pan-African ethos and spirit that Ghana is known for.

She said globally, the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018 adding that the rate of displacement continues to exceed the rate at which durable solutions are being found. “The average length of displacement for the majority is between 8 and 25 years. Do remember that behind these statistics are real life human stories of loss and struggle, or courage and strength” Ms. Kiragu noted adding that the first responders are usually the host communities and their governing structures. She indicated that the recently launched Global Compact on Refugees is meant to deal with this - solidarity with the host community. She further noted that supporting refugees and their host communities go beyond humanitarianism. “It is about sustainable development and not leaving anyone behind. Given the protracted nature of asylum, refugees when given the necessary support can contribute to the national economy of the host country as well as their country of origin when they are able to return in safety and dignity” she said.

Ms. Kiragu called on development and private sector partners to support refugees and their host communities. “No step is too small. If we all take a step with refugees (and their immediate hosts); together we can make a world of difference” she concluded.  

The Chief of Ampain, Nana Nyameke Fofole II said the Ampain Community has taken a major step with refugees by their commitment to receive refugees in the area and share their limited social amenities with them. He was grateful to the UNHCR and Ghana Refugee Board for the various support the community has benefitted by hosting refugees such as schools, accommodation for teachers and health care facility.

He called for more support in the area of provision of medications to support the clinic in the camp. Educational and Health facilities in the Camp have been integrated into national systems where host community members benefit as well.

A Representative of the Holy Sea, Rev Pavol Talapka of the Apostolic Nunciature in Accra who spoke at the durbar said violent conflicts and all-out wars continued to tear humanity apart, saying that injustices and discrimination, economic and social imbalances on a local or global scale proved difficult to overcome and the poor of the poorest and the most disadvantaged had to pay the price. He noted that the response of communities and nations to the challenges posed by contemporary migration and refugees can be summed up in 4 verbs: Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate.

As part of efforts to support refugee businesses, dignitaries at the durbar patronized a bazaar mounted by refugees in Ampain where they bought various items on display.

In a related development, the World Bank had a live streaming of the World Refugee Day event in Ampain Refugee Camp to rally support for the implementation of the Global Compact by Financial Institutions as well as the Private Sector. The Global Compact is clear that the refugee crisis is not merely a humanitarian crisis, but a developmental issue.

World Refugee Day is observed on June 20 each year to honor the courage, strength and resilience of millions of men, women and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. It is also a day to draw attention to their plight as well as recognize the contributions of refugees in the various communities that host them

The theme for this year is ‘Taking a Step with Refugees’ which falls in line with the Global Compact of Refugees which calls for a wider global movement of solidarity for people forced to flee and stateless people

Durbars were also held in Egyeikrom, Fetentaa and Krisan Camps to mark the day.

Written by
Patience Folley
Communications Officer
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund