‘Gitmo 2 can’t go back; they’re refugees’ – Gov’t

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, told Parliament that the ex-detainees cannot go back because they were granted refugee status under the Mahama government.

The Foreign Affairs Minister told Parliament that this is because the former detainees were granted refugee status under the Mahama government in July 2016.

“The government at the time granted the two detainees refugee status. This followed a request by National Security to the then-Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board. They were issued a decision letter dated 21st July 2016, recognizing their status as refugees.”

Mrs Botchway explained that the agreement signed between the government of Ghana and United States of America indicated that, the US has no obligation to the detainees after the initial two-year agreement.

Meanwhile, Ghana has the responsibility to integrate the two into the Ghanaian society because they have obtained refugee status.

The Minister further explained that “the implication is that, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the 1967 protocol on the Status of refugees as well as the provisions of the Refugee Law (1992) PNDC Law 305 (d) of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country.”

She added that the essential component of the refugee status in Ghana “is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution.”

“Accordingly, the government is constrained to explore any further options at this time, and will await an in-depth examination of the matter by the appropriate agencies,” Mrs Botchway added.

Meanwhile, the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has assured the government of support from his side of Parliament. He said the Minority will cooperate in finding a lasting resolution to the matter.

“I get the impression that the honourable Foreign Minister is asking for more time for the government to decide. We can assure them that we will be willing to work with them so that we can find a permanent solution to this matter. We will engage in politics that you can be assured it's not opportunistic, and will be in the national interest as we find a permanent solution to this matter.”

The two detainees of Yemeni nationality, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, who were in detention for 14 years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, were brought to Ghana in January 2016, for a period of two years.

At the time when they came to Ghana, a statement released by the then-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hanna Tetteh, on January 6, 2015, did not explicitly state that the former detainees would necessarily have to leave the country after the agreement expired. The statement said the two may leave the country after the two-year period, suggesting the decision was in their hands.

Many Ghanaians criticized the government of the day for taking such a decision.

Two citizens; Margaret Bamful and Henry Nana Boakye, further sued the former Attorney General and the Minister of Interior contending that the two were being hosted illegally.

The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the agreement between the Mahama government and the United States.

The Supreme Court ordered the government to send the agreement to Parliament for ratification or have the two detainees sent back to the US.

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