By Joseph N.N. Swen,Buduburam
Activities at the Buduburam Refugee settlement and its environs are affected by the On-going voluntary repatriation process which sees over seven thousand (7,000) Liberian refugees return to their motherland, Liberia since April 2008 to date.
The process began due to a statement made by Ghana’s then Minister of Interior, Kwamena Bartels that Liberians in Ghana are a security threat to the nation during a five week long sit-down demonstration by a conglomeration of refugee women groups against local integration.
The women ear y this year appealed for resettlement opportunity to third countries of asylum, preferably, the USA, Europe or Australia, but should the impossibility surface, they said they would appeal for the increment in the voluntary repatriation package as against the current package.
Unlike the recent past, the socio-economic activities are beginning to function on a slow pace. Shops and market centers are at the verge of collapsing due to poor patronage. Schools, though now reopening for the academic year 2008 to 2009, student population has dramatically dropped while most schools are closed.
Even religious worship centers such as Churches and Mosques cannot be without mention. Most have been shutdown while the few still in existence barely have a full house congregation.
The situation has equally affected the Ghanaian owned businesses at the settlement such as the commercial drivers or vehicular owners who daily commute between the settlement and Accra (Capitol City of Ghana) since it takes hours these days before a bus/vehicle gets full for Accra and or back from Accra to the Settlement.
Once of such segments which is seriously getting its share of the ice-block, is the housing services (rental), mainly owned by Ghanaians outside the settlement. These houses are continually becoming vacant because either those occupants are being repatriated or are moving on the settlement also due to the already high rental charges.
Even with such development, some analysts say, the authorities and their implementing partners are creating false impression by embarking on few long overdue development, for example, building drainages and pipe-borne water- even though the supply is not totally free of charge.
In an interview with a cross section of the refugee population, some residents as usual vehemently expressed their sentiment. A desperate 30 yr old young man, Mark Johnson, said, “Instead of the authorities focusing on scholarship for Liberian students to get admission at the various Universities here in Ghana, they are only concerned about projects that they are personally benefiting from”.
“These people are concerned about their jobs, and unhappy about our compulsory willingness to go back home because most of them might surely be out of jobs this is why they are creating the impression that all is well at the camp”, John Duah,60,said.
However, one thing that amazes residents, is the huge influx of non refugees including Ghanaians on the settlement to reside at the camp.
Instead of the authorities condemning such moves on the part of influx of non Liberian refugees to the camp, they have instead ordered potential returnees (Liberians) to turn over keys of their self-built houses to the Ghanaian and Liberian local authorities in the settlement.
In reaction to such order, some residents said the statement is unacceptable and that they themselves will decide what to do with their houses because those houses were built by themselves and not by the authorities.
Efforts to get an official version from the UNHCR and the Settlement authorities were unsuccessful as our phone calls were never returned.