Ghana’s refugee and asylum seeker population stands at about 14,000 with roughly 50 per cent of the population in refugee camps, Mr Tetteh Padi, Acting Executive Secretary of the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) has said.
He said the remaining percentage lived amongst citizens in various communities across the country.
Mr Padi said this on Monday during the commemoration of this year’s World Refugee Day, on the theme: “Together we heal, learn and shine – Inclusion in health, education and sport” in Accra.
The event also witnessed the sod-cutting ceremony of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refugee Community Centre, named the “Blue Oasis.”
The Executive Secretary said refugees in Ghana originated from about 34 different countries all over the world, with the largest group being Ivoirians who mostly fled the electoral disturbances in 2011.
Mr Padi said the presence of refugees greatly imparted on the local economies of host countries because as the refugees migrated, they carried along with them skills, trade and other qualities.
He said assistance to refugees did not only come from partners, but Government also made a significant contribution to their development and wellbeing by including them in national social programmes.
“In education, schools in refugee hosting areas are run by the Ghana Education Service (GES), just as health facilities are incorporated into the Ghana Health Service (GHS). Refugees have access to educational institutions in our communities. The District and/or Municipal authorities play a key part in the provision of services to refugees located within their jurisdictions,” Mr Padi said.
He said despite the restrictions that came along with COVID-19, the GRB, with funding from UNHCR, commenced and completed projects in the year 2020, worth over seven million Ghana Cedis.
The projects include Police Stations, accommodation specifically for female Police officers, schools and infectious disease isolation centres.
Others are: Station Officers’ quarters, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centres, markets and several handwashing points located on all refugee camps.
Mr Padi said the facilities were positioned at carefully selected locations to ensure that not only refugees benefitted from their use, but also the host Ghanaian communities.
“Examples are police stations and schools, serving five or six communities in some instances. All refugee host communities and in effect, Ghana as host country, benefit from these amenities. Additionally, selected host community residents are included in livelihood activities implemented for refugees. Both groups go on to contribute to the local and national economy after completing skills training,” he said.
He said the GRB, together with its partners, would intensify sensitisation activities in order to raise public awareness of the presence of refugees in various communities and camps.
Mr Padi said they would also work with refugees, reiterating their rights and responsibilities with respect to the laws of Ghana and societal norms.
He called on individuals and corporate bodies to assist refugees with whatever little they had to enhance on their livelihood.
Madam Esther Kiragu, Country Representative of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said by the end of 2020, over 80 million people had sought refuge – either across borders or within their own country, representing double the number from a decade ago.
“These numbers are overwhelming, as are the wars, conflict and persecution that plague our world and force people from their homes. But we must not look away-because each number represents a real person, a girl or boy, woman or man, whose life has suddenly and through no fault of their own been torn apart,” she said.
She said despite the challenges refugees faced every day, they had stepped up, working as doctors and nurses, developing innovative hygiene solutions, and keeping their communities functioning.
Madam Kiragu explained that the new Refugee Community Centre was named “Blue Oasis” because UNHCR’s colour was blue, representing their values such as working with people, being accessible and remaining in solidarity with others.
The Oasis, she said, was necessary for providing water when one was stranded on a dessert, to quench their thirst, refresh and rejuvenate them.
Thus, the Centre would provide renewal of destinies and restoration of lost hope to refugees in the country.
Among other benefits, Madam Kiragu said the Centre would provide business development learning and mentoring opportunities for refugees through formal trainings and other types of engagements with skilled practitioners.
It would also provide opportunities for refugees to engage key stakeholders including, Government, financial institutions, private businesses, among others, so refugees and partners can better understand issues and engage with the stakeholders to develop innovative solutions.
Madam Kiragu said the “Blue Oasis” would provide a location to showcase artworks, culture, foods, fashion, talents, crafts and products of refugees.
That, she said would be accomplished through various events, which would include partners and members of the wider Ghanaian community.