Although the government does not support irregular migration, it will ensure that citizens of the country who are facing deportation are handled with respect and dignity.
In line with that, the government, through the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), has begun talks with a number of foreign missions in the country to ensure that the human rights of Ghanaians who are deported from the various countries are respected as enshrined in the fundamental freedoms under the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in an interview on the sidelines of a Mental Health and Psychological Support Capacity Building Training for NADMO staff in Accra yesterday, the Director-General of NADMO, Mr Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh, said the government was employing diplomacy and consensus building to ensure that the human rights of Ghanaians were respected even when they infringed upon immigration laws in other countries.
The one-day training was organised by the NADMO in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the German Cooperation Agency and the Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration.
The UN Charter on Human Rights says that human rights are universal — to be enjoyed by all people, no matter who they are or where they live.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed in 1948, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, includes civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy.
Amnesty International (AI) has also been critical about the harsh treatment many deportees go through before they reach their home countries.
In its 2020/2021 State of the World Human Rights Report, AI stated: “Many countries, including Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA, forcibly returned people without proper consideration of their refugee and asylum claims.
“Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants detained in immigration centres were at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to poor sanitary conditions and the impossibility of physical distancing.”
According to the NADMO boss,deportees received in Ghana usually complained about the harsh treatment they were subjected to, but added that some of the reports were allegations that were yet to substantiated.
Nevertheless, he described some of the treatments that were meted to deportees as unfair and inhumane.
“Some deportees on arrival in Ghana have alleged that they were handcuffed during long hours of flight, sometimes 11-hour flights from the countries they were deported from.
“Sometimes, we go to the airport and receive people in handcuffs and we think that is not fair,” he stated.
Although the NADMO Director-General would not rule out the possibility that some migrants arrested for deportation could be violent, he insisted that that should not be a basis for their human rights and dignity to be trampled on.
"When you want to arrest some people definitely they will fight back, but when you get the person on the aeroplane, is he going to fight in the aeroplane?
“So, how can you handcuff somebody for 11 hours from New York to Accra, that is inhumane, it is unacceptable," he stated.
The director-general said returnees that arrived in the country were in both the voluntary and forced categories.
"When we receive the returnees, you know there are two categories, but most of the time the forced returnees are in the majority. They are those people who don't have the necessary documentation and other issues and those countries are forcing them to come back," Mr Prempeh said.
Taking the specific case of the United Kingdom (UK), Mr Agyemang-Prempeh stated that after allegations that Ghanaian deportees from the UK were not being treated fairly at detention centres in London, NADMO met with officials of the British High Commission to resolve the issue.
He said the British High Commission officials denied the allegations but the government was still engaged in dialogue with them.
Mr Agyemang-Prempeh said after gathering all information about the issue, NADMO would collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration on how to resolve the issues.
"There are many ways of tackling issues such as through consensus and compromise and the United Nations has laws and international diplomacy which we use to solve some of the problems. That is why we are taking steps to ensure that the right things are done,” he said.
"But for the COVID-19 pandemic, I would have visited the detention centre in London where they keep the people before deportation because we get reports that they are not treating them well, I met with the UK Embassy authorities and they agreed to send some of our staff to visit there,” the NADMO chief stated.
Speaking later at the training programme for the NADMO staff, Mr Agyemang-Prempeh expressed the hope that it would equip the 70 officers of the organisation with the vital skills in the administration of initial counselling to forced returned migrants and disaster victims some of whom were unfairly stigmatised by society as failures.
For his part, the Project Manager of IOM, Mr Florian Braendli, said the UN was contributing to Ghana's response to the pandemic and its effects on mental health by sensitising the public to mental health and psychological support, and providing tools to detect and prevent the stigmatisation of irregular migrants.
The Senior National Programme Coordinator of the Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs (GCC), Migration and Reintegration, Mr David Yaw Mensah Tetteh, said his outfit was committed to assisting returnee migrants and potential migrants with skills to take advantage of economic opportunities in Ghana.
He said since its inauguration in 2017, the GCC, in collaboration with the IOM, had assisted with the re-integration of over 1,000 irregular migrants.
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