The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has stated that the two (2) Guantamo Bay detainees, popularly called GITMO 2 received into the country by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government under a bilateral agreement with the United States (US) government cannot be sent home as it stands now due to the fact that they now assumes refugee status.
According to her, the most essential component of a refugee status and of asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution, and as such cannot return the two under their current status.
Speaking on the floor of Parliament, after appearing to give a briefing to the House on government’s stance on the GITMO 2, she revealed that the two ex-detainees have integrated into the Ghanaian society with families now have been living here since January 2016, and are reported to be of good behavior.
She further revealed that, on the 6th of January, 2018, the bilateral cooperation concerning the resettlement of the two came to an end, as confirmed in a meeting between the Ministry and the US Ambassador, His Excellency Ambassador Jackson on 10th January, 2018.
According to the Minister, the Ambassador confirmed that, the United States; financial support and obligation in respect of the Agreement had ended, following its expiration, though the US was going to continue cooperating with Ghana in terms of security and mutual exchange of information and intelligence on the activities of the two.
She further revealed that no exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement at the time of negotiation; with the US making it clear that returning them to the US is not an option.
She said the government has hit two hurdles in exploring the options available to it; being that as per the agreement, whilst the US’ obligations ends entirely after two years, that of Ghana continues even after that, and also the fact that the two now have refugee status, as granted by the then government, as per a decision letter issued to the two and dated 21st July, 2016 recognizing their status as refugees.
As per the United Nations Conventions on the status of refugees of 1951 and the 1967 protocol on the status of refugees, as well as per the provisions of the Refugee Law, 1992 (PNDCL 305D) of Ghana therefore, the two have attained the status of refugees in Ghana.
In the light of the forgoing according to the Minister, “government is constrained to explore any other option at this time and will await an in dept examination of the matter by the appropriate agencies”.
Story: Frederick E. Aggrey