An Accra Fast Track High Court on Thursday dealt a blow to the hopes of 23 Liberian refugees in Ghana when it ordered their repatriation.
The court presided over Mr Justice P.K. Gyeasayor, a Court of Appeal Judge, held that the refugees, who were arrested at Gomoa Buduburam camp just west of the Ghanaian capital and detained at the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), could be repatriated.
“The Director, GIS, is entitled to repatriate the applicants. Applicants have not been able to prove to the court that they are refugees,” the court said.
It dismissed an interlocutory injunction filed against the Ministers of Justice and the Interior against the repatriation of the Liberians, including seven minors.
The court further asked that the seven minors among the applicants should accomp any their parents who were being repatriated. No cost was awarded.
The refugees were arrested at the peak of a standoff between the government and the refugees who staged demonstrations for days demanding resettlement in the US or Canada and a repatriation allowance of US$1,000 instead of USD$100 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Ghana government took a hard stand in the standoff and has now agreed with the Liberian government for all Liberian refugees in Ghana to return home since the war that brought them has ended and there is a democratically elected government in their country. There are some 29,000 Liberian refugees in the camp, but a total of some 40,000 in the country.
The court noted that exhibits, including photocopies of ID cards produced by the applicants, did not show that they were refugees registered with the Ghana Immigration Service, the Liberian Embassy and the UNHCR.
Human rights lawyer, Nana Oye Lithur of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, had argued that the applicants were illegal immigrants but undocumented refugees who arrived in the country as a result of civil war.
She therefore prayed the court to recognize their rights and release them.
The human rights lawyers had filed a motion on notice for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Theresa Cheddah Dogbey and 22 other refugees.