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Ghana Airlift Brings Thousands Home from Libya

  • Peter Clottey

Ghana deputy information minister says government working with aid groups to evacuate those who wish to leave

"Swift” and “impressive.”

That’s how Ghana’s deputy information minister, Samuel Okujeto Ablakwa, describes his government’s efforts to airlift home thousands of Ghanaian migrants stranded in Libya, where rebels are fighting to end the rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

In Libya, thousands of Ghanaian migrant workers have fled fighting between rebels and loyalists to President Moammar Gadhafi.

In Libya, thousands of Ghanaian migrant workers have fled fighting between rebels and loyalists to President Moammar Gadhafi.

Ablakwa says Ghana's a small country with little in the budget for such emergencies. However, he says the government is working closely with such international groups as the International Organization on Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross to help evacuate those who wish to leave. He credits the organizations with helping to find Ghanaians within Libya, including those at the border with Tunisia and Egypt.

“We did not make excuses,” he said, “but immediately negotiated. We got charter and even commercial flights at special rates and we continue to negotiate to get our citizens back.”

So far, he says, nearly 6,000 have returned and hundreds more are expected.

“When they return home, we welcome them,” explained Ablakwa. “We screen them so that those who need medical attention are attended to. We also make sure that they are supported with some stipends to get to their various destinations.”

“So far, the Ghanaians who have arrived have indicated they are in touch with relations and loved ones, so we do not need to create a camp or a temporary holding place for them,” he added.

Ablakwa says the government remains committed to citizens wherever they may be. He says he expects the evacuation of Ghanaian citizens from Libya to be completed by the end of the week

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