Refugees ask for forgiveness

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More than 600 Liberian refug ees who face repatriation back home for breaking Ghanaian laws are pleading for clemency.

Police removed 659 refugees, mainly women and children, from their camp at Gomoa Buduburam just west of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on Monday after they had defied orders for weeks to end their demonstrations to demand being resettled in the US and 1,000 dollars voluntary repatriation fee from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Police and the Refugee Board have been screening them for deportation, but they appealed on Wednesday to the Government to rescind its decision to deport them to Liberia, promising to be law abiding. They are being held at a youth leadership training northeast of Accra.

Some of them told reporters that they would not continue the protest but would live in peace if they were released.

The refugees had embarked on a protest for weeks resulting in the closure of schools in the Buduburam camp.

The government of Ghana declared the protest illegal and warned the protesters to desist from the act or face repatriation.

On Tuesday, human rights groups threatened to sue the Ghana government if it failed to resort to the courts in dealing their repatriation.

The Coalition of Human Rights Organizations described as “over reaction” government’s handling of the protests of the refugees and said only a court of competent jurisdiction could determine whether the refugees should be repatriated.

The coalition said it had formed an investigative team to look into the stand-off between the refugees and the government with a fact finding team having been dispatched to the Buduburam camp and a youth training centre where the arrested refugees were being held.

The team claimed its initial investigations had shown that the rights of the refugees had been grossly violated by the government, a claim denied by the Interior ministry.

The Head of the Legal Resources Centre, Mr. Edward Amuzu said the women had not stripped themselves naked and there had been no roadblocks at the camp.

The Minority spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Mr. John Mahama said although the demands by the refugees could be unreasonable, it was important to protect their human rights.

He said the anger of the Interior Minster should not be allowed to damage the reputation of the country.

Interior Minister Kwamena Bartels had warned that the Liberians should “not overstretch the goodwill and protection the government and people of Ghana had accorded them over the past 18 years when they fled their country during a bloody civil war”.

Some of the demonstrators had forced the closure of all schools at the camp by intimidating and prevented children from going to school.

They also stopped the distribution of food by the National Catholic Secretariat and other non-governmental organisations to the elderly, sick and children.

“These acts are clearly against the laws of Ghana and the government wishes to advise all refugees and those involved in the illegal demonstration at the Buduburam camp that it has a duty to maintain law and order in the country,” Bartels said. Panapress.

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