Liberians in court over arrests and deportations
With plans far advanced within 24 hours by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) for the deportation of twenty-three Liberians who claimed to have refugee status, Nana Oye Lithur of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Legal Resource Centre, was in court to seek an order forcing the GIS to rescind its decision.
The Liberians also want the court to order the Minister of the Interior and the Inspector General of Police to justify their arrest and continuous detention at the Service's headquarters because the act was inconsistent with their refugee status.
As the debate on whether the Liberians, who once enjoyed refugee status in the country, could still be regarded as refugees rages on, the GIS insists they are no more refugees as the war in their country had ended.
At a Fast Track High Court presided over by Justice P.K. Gyaesayor where the Liberians had gone to seek an injunction restraining the GIS from deporting them, Mrs. Lithur, who moved the motion, called for the release of the Liberians who are the applicants in this case because they had been detained without trial.
According to her, Theresa Cheddah Dogbey, one of the applicants and the twenty-two others were registered refugees and were entitled to the protection of the court under Article (12) of the Constitution.
She quoted Article (2) 1 of the International Convention of Human and Political Rights, averring that their arrests were unlawful. She said some of those arrested were even minors, which was against children's rights.
However, she told the court that she did not have any information on the other twenty-two persons as she was not given the opportunity to interview them.
Justice Gyaesayor consequently ordered that the Director-General of the Immigration Service should allow four lawyers to interview the Liberians and adjourned the case to April 14, 2008.
Mrs. Evelyn Keelson represented the State.
In her affidavit in support of the motion, Dogbey said she was a refugee registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Accra, who was arrested with about 630 women and children and detained at the Kodiabe Training Centre in the Greater Accra Region.
She stated that she and her ten-year old daughter, Joetta Solo and husband, Marcus M. Jedo, who are both refugees at the Budumbura Refugee Camp, had Refugees Identity Cards with numbers.
The applicant explained that on March 31, 2008 at about 6pm, she and sixteen other children were transferred to the Immigration headquarters in Accra in preparation for their deportation which she believed was unlawful.
According to her on March 22, 2008 other persons were deported, adding that she believed the court had the power to order the Minister of the Interior, the Inspector General of Police and the Director-General of the Immigration Service to justify their continuous detention.
Mr. Jones Applerh, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior, in an interview with the press after the court hearing was of the view that the Liberians were no more refugees so the United Nations Convention on Human Rights did not apply to them.
He explained that there was no law prohibiting the deportation of any persons to their country if their continuous stay was inimical to the nation except that they must not be sent to a place where their lives would be in jeopardy.