The situation with Liberian refugees at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana took another dramatic turn over the weekend when refugees say about a thousand Ghanaian police invaded the camp and rounded up able body men. Women refugees at the camp have been holding daily sit-ins to demand a thousand dollars each from the UN refugee agency for repatriation to Liberia. About two weeks ago, Ghanaian police arrested and removed about 600 women from the camp charging them with violation of Ghana’s Public Order Act.
Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. From the capital, Monrovia, he told VOA a high power Liberian delegation is scheduled to arrive in Ghana Monday.
“We have received the same kinds of reports that you have received from Ghana from independent sources and from Liberians regarding the presence of Ghanaian security people and the rounding up of males on the camp. Our technical teams from the government that are already in Ghana are awaiting the arrival of the ministerial delegation. They are and the ambassador are on their way to the camp to verify this information that you have received and that we have also received in Liberia,” he said.
Bropleh said the official delegation led by the minister of foreign affairs and comprising the ministers of justice, internal affairs, and information, is expected to arrive in Ghana Monday.
“We are going to intervene. We’ll be taking a special message from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to her counterpart President John Kufuor. Meanwhile, the government is calling on all Liberians at the Buduburam Camp to please remain peaceful and calm because this government is working feverishly with the Ghanaian government to make sure that resolve this crisis,” Bropleh said.
The refugees have been demonstrating against a United Nations-funded program that provides refugees with a free trip and $100 to resettle in Liberia. But the refugees have asked that the amount be increased to $1,000 because they say $100 cannot meet their needs having left their homes in Liberia for almost 18 years.
Bropleh said the Liberian government cannot, at the moment, afford to foot the bill for the return of the refugees.
“It’s not as simple as that. We are told that there are almost 30,000 Liberian refugees at the camp. We don’t know; we have to verify the number. Secondly, repatriation and the refugee situation ended in June of 2007. People were given the option to be brought back to Liberia. They were given resettlement packages. They were even told that as refugees, even if they were illegal, we will transport you by ship to get there. Many took advantage, many did not,” he said.
Bropleh said the Liberian government is working out the methodology and mechanism to receive the refugees from Ghana. However, he said the Liberian government cannot accommodate all of the refugees at once.
“The government is not in the position to receive 30,000 or even 10,000 or 5,000 tomorrow. We have to put the mechanism in place. We have to have a place to receive them and packages to help them to resettle themselves. We’re working with UNHRC. We will look at all of the best options in order to receive our citizens. But our intervention with the Ghanaian government is please put a stay order on sending an exodus of Liberians to Liberian right now. Give the government a chance because an influx of Liberians when the government is not capable of handling them at the same time, also has regional peace and stability implications in West Africa,” Bropleh said.
A spokesman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change told VOA last week that the Liberian government was insensitive to the plight of the refugees in Ghana.
But Bropleh said this is no time for Monday morning quarterbacking.
“That opposition politician does not understand what she or he might be talking about. These are our citizens. This government has to operate through the diplomatic channels. We cannot at this time be Monday morning quarterback and politicize this situation. We need to pull together as Liberians, find the best options so that our people in Ghana and around the region can continue to be save, law abiding while this government tries to work out ways by which we can receive our citizens,” Bropleh said.