By Penelope Chester,Paris
This morning, Saturday March 22, reports are trickling in that an armed Ghanaian police force raided the Buduburam refugee settlement, arresting Liberian men, in an apparently random manner.
The police allegedly beat young men playing basketball with batons, and raided the camp clinic, taking away people waiting for treatment. Men were taken from their homes – we have spoken to people who are currently hiding in the bush, locked into their houses, for fear of arrest by the Ghanaian authorities.
From eyewitness accounts, the arrests are arbitrary and unprovoked. We ask that the Ghanaian authorities immediately end what seems to be a campaign of unjustified, unconscionable arrest and detention of the Liberian refugee community at Buduburam.
The Ghanaian authorities have been using the month-long peaceful protest by the women of Buduburam as a justification for their removal; however, the BBC admits that, “… [The Interior] Minister used false allegations to justify arrests”, with relation to the arrests of March 17.
We, Buduburam Refugee Concerns International (a coalition of NGOs and individuals campaigning for the safeguarding of refugee rights in Ghana) are extremely concerned by the recent turn of events, and plead with the Ghanaian authorities to exercise restraint and to uphold refugee and human rights in this time of crisis.
Currently, 30 arrested men are at the Accra Air Force Base , Ghana for immediate deportation. It is unknown if the police intend to make more arrests at this time.
Desperation pervades throughout Buduburam and the Liberian community is in fear for their safety. Hundreds of women and children that were arrested on Monday, March 17, 2008 still sit imprisoned in dire conditions.
Although 90 of the most vulnerable detainees were returned to camp prior to the arrests of the men, the future of the remainder remains unknown. A March 20, 2008 (the 4th full day of their detainment) article describes the deplorable conditions where the women and children are held.
Reports of miscarriages, scorpion bites, and diarrhea are coming from the detainment center. The situation grew out of a peaceful protest on camp, beginning February 19, 2008; several hundred Liberian women convened a peaceful “sit in” protest to call for increased assistance from the UNHCR.
The government of Ghana became agitated by these protests and warned them to cease, but they persisted. On, March 17, 2008, before dawn, the Ghanaian authorities arrived on camp, armed with AK47s and tear gas, to arrest over six hundred of protesters.
Their return to camp this morning to go after male members of the community, who did not participate in any protests, reveals the escalation of this crisis.
This morning’s events expose the dire circumstances of the refugee community in Ghana. As the crisis continues, the need for an immediate and peaceful resolution is increasingly clear.
While the issue at hand concerns the estimated 26,974 Liberian who reside at the settlement, the total population is about 40,000, consisting of refugees from various African nations.
All of their fates hang in the balance.
Ghana must realize that the forcible removal of refugees from the country will not eliminate their responsibility.
The international community is on alert and will demand accountability for these egregious human rights violations.
Please view the petition and its nearly 600 signatories at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/LiberianRefugees/ View more information at www.theniapeleproject.org and www.whitetara.org.
Buduburam Refugee Concerns International Contact: Megan Sullivan email@example.com and Penelope Chester Penelope@theniapeleproject.org