Ghana has softened its position on the issue of the repatriation of Liberian refugees and announced that it has reached an agreement with Liberia for the repatriation of the refugees to commence by June this year.
The agreement was reached at a meeting between the two sides in Accra and announced on Friday. Ghana had wanted the repatriation to begin in April.
A high-level Liberian delegation led by Foreign Minister, Olubanke King-Akirele has been in Ghana all this week to resolve the standoff between the Ghana government and the refugees triggered by a demonstration by some of the Liberians rejecting integration into the Ghanaian society, a demand of 1,000 US dollars repatriation fee and resettlement in the US.
The delegation met with President John Kufuor who urged the two sides to work closely with the UNHCR to agree a timetable to repatriate the refugees.
He said the situation that warranted their stay in the country was gone, and there was therefore no justification for them to claim refugee status.
The Ministry of the Interior said hundreds of the demonstrating refugees who wer e evacuated from the Gomoa Buduburam camp just west of Accra to the Kordiabe lea d ership centre in the Eastern Region would be returned.
Ghana last Saturday deported 16 Liberian men identified as ringleaders and planned to deport two more groups on Sunday and Monday, but suspended the action for talks with the Liberian delegation. The UNHCR also asked Ghana to halt the deport a tions while it asked the refugees to obey the laws of Ghana.
The Liberian refugee population in Ghana is put at some 40,000. Panapress.