The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway has told Parliament that 365 Ghanaians have been officially screened by US immigration officials for deportation to Ghana while 800 Ghanaians working illegally under harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia have opted for voluntary repatriation to Ghana.
She said those Ghanaians working in Saudi Arabia took advantage of a three-month amnesty given to illegal immigrants by the Saudi government to leave the country with 800 Ghanaians having been processed by the Ghanaian Mission in Riyadh to be repatriated.
“In order to discourage people from violating the amnesty and risking arrest, the Ghanaian Mission is making efforts through social and electronic media to propagate the information both in Ghana and Saudi Arabia,” she said stressing that to reduce the cost and facilitate the process, the Ghanaian Mission in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah have subsidised the cost of processing Travel Certificates from SR 200 (Saudi Riyadh) to RS 50 to enable as many Ghanaians as possible take advantage of the voluntary repatriation.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs made these known on the floor of Parliament on Thursday when the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of parliament and National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa asked the Minister whether she was aware of 7,000 Ghanaian Immigrants in the US facing deportation and also whether the plight of Ghanaian domestic workers in the Gulf States has also come to her notice.
According to the Minister, after the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson had publicly announced that 7,000 illegal Ghanaian immigrants in the US were being processed for deportation, the Ghanaian Embassy in the U.S. made an enquiry from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to confirm the number but they were told that 180 Ghanaians were under deportation order while an additional 185 Ghanaians were at various stages of processing, pending final deportation orders.
“Subsequently, the ICE on 14th June, 2017 effected the repatriation of 63 out of the first 80 cleared for deportation, who arrived on a chartered flight on the said date,” she said.
She said after stories were told by the Ghanaian deportees that they were maltreated while being deported, her ministry caused a Note Verbale to be transmitted to the US authorities registering the Government of Ghana’s concern about the process and the alleged treatment of the Ghanaians during the flight to Ghana.
The Minister explained that when the US Ambassador to Ghana was summoned to the Office of the Minister over the allegation, he denied everything and said the deportees were never belly-chained or handcuffed for the duration of the flight and that it was inaccurate that the Ghanaian deportees were restricted and were unable to use the washroom on the flight.
She said the ministry has however told the US authorities to give the deportees the opportunity, where possible, to gather their belongings before departure.
“Meanwhile, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) is planning to repatriate another batch of Ghanaian nationals from the US to Ghana on a chartered flight in due course,” she said adding that the Ghanaian Mission in the US is yet to be provided with details of the number of deportees to be repatriated to Ghana.
On the abuse of Ghanaian domestic workers in the Gulf region, the Minister said since these domestic workers do not register with the Embassy in Saudi Arabia, it becomes difficult for the Mission to identify where these Ghanaians are being subjected to abuse adding that in cases where the abused employees manage to escape, the Embassy provides them with shelter at the Chancery and where necessary, arranges medical treatment for them.
“The Ministry will engage the diplomatic Missions of the destination countries to ensure that visas are not issued to persons who are not recognised by any competent Ghanaian authority for purposes of labour migration,” the Minister told parliament.