Mr Ambrose Dery, Minister for the Interior has called for strengthened collaboration and cooperation among partner institutions in refugee protection to safeguard the rights of refugees as prescribed by international and the country’s laws.
He said protection of the rights of refugees was non-negotiable as it was a value that had stood the test of time and was humanity’s long-standing tradition.
However, he noted that while ensuring that the rights of asylum seekers were upheld at the country’s entry points, the laws and security of the state remained in focus.
Therefore, he said it was imperative for the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) to collaborate effectively to ensure that the rights of refugees and the security of the country was not compromised.
The Interior Minister was speaking at the opening of a high-level dialogue on the protection of refugees in international and Ghanaian law; aimed at enhancing cooperation among stakeholders.
The dialogue was organised by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in collaboration with the Ghana Refugee Board and the Ghana Immigration Service, to advance strategies at strengthen cooperation among collaborators in refugee protection in the country.
He said in spite of the difficulties being experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries were still employing restrictive policies, adding that it was crucial that even in the crisis, there was need to uphold human rights standards as the country was witnessing the largest number of refugees ever.
Mr Dery added that refugee protection was not a matter of charity but an obligation under the 1951 Convention of Refugee Status and other binding regional instruments.
“All of us must work together, in the spirit of cooperation to ensure the effective protection of the fundamental human rights of refugees,” he said, adding that the Ministry would continue to identify areas of mutual collaboration with the UNHCR and other international partners to build upon the strong foundation already established.
Mr Dery said such discussions must take place periodically to enable ideas to be shared on the challenges encountered from reception of asylum seekers through to the provision of durable solutions for refugees.
“Partners should propose ways for collaboration to ensure appropriate and adequate capacity building of all actors in receiving asylum seekers,” he said.
He said Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) as a major partner in Refugee administration, did a phenomenal job in receiving and providing the necessary guidance to persons intending to seek asylum, adding that, the Ghana Refugee Board, on the other hand, had significantly reduced the waiting time between asylum applications and final adjudication.
“We have caseload of protracted refugee situations including; the Togolese, Sierra Leonean, Rwandese 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 status to an end,” he assured.
He noted that in the spirit of collaboration and capacity building, the UNHCR in 2020, under the “Solution and COVID-19 Assistance Fund” had started and completed numerous infrastructural projects for partners in refugee management.
Mrs Esther Kiragu, UNHCR Country Representative applauded Ghana for its formidable and progressive asylum policy and the country’s efforts in ensuring that the rights of refugees were adequately safeguarded, and their rights to basic health and education provided for them.
Present at the high-level dialogue was the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Charles Paul Abani, and the Comptroller-General of the Ghana Immigration Service, Mr Kwame Asuah Takyi, amongst other dignitaries.