The issue of some Ghanaians from the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo District in the Northern Region crossing into Togo following a recent conflict there came up for debate in Parliament yesterday.
The Member of Parliament for the area, Emmanuel Duut, rejected suggestions that the people were refugees, saying they were internally displaced persons who decided to join their relations in Togo. He explained that border crossing in the area was a daily routine for the people who were only divided by the colonial boundary.
Mr Duut said this after the Minister of the Interior, Martin Amidu, briefed the House about the situation in the area.
The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, however, disagreed that there was no refugee situation and asked: "Were the tents erected for the glory of it and to beautify the landscape?"
The Interior Minister told the House that an assessment mission to the Republic of Togo reported seeing about 20 unoccupied tents at the time of the visit.
He said a report received from the mission to the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district indicated that most of the displaced persons remained in Ghana.
Mr Amidu said the estimated population of the conflict area was about 200 with a registered voter population of 900.
"It will therefore, be highly unlikely that any realistic figures could be higher than the total population of the area," the Minister stated, in apparent reference to media reports that 3,500 refugees were involved.
He said it was observed that most of the displaced Ghanaians continued to live on the Ghana side of the border but cross over to Togo to receive food aid any time food or emergency supplies were being distributed at that side and thereafter return to Ghana.
The Interior Minister said the conflict did not cover the whole of Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district but limited to three Bimoba clans who started fighting over a parcel of land at a village called Tabong as far back as January 2008.
He said the clans who live about 65 kilometres away from the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district capital are the Dikpornu based at Kambatiak, the Nakuuks at Tabong and Naadaungs at Gbankoni, all of whom share boundary with the Republic of Togo.
Mr Amidu said the recent conflict amongst three Bimoba clans was an intra-ethnic conflict which resulted in burning down of 368 houses, four deaths and a number of displaced inhabitants.
He said international best practice required that refugees be duly registered to facilitate exchange of information for eventual return and reintegration.
"We have been unable to obtain any list of registered refugees from our Togolese brothers upon earlier visit by the Ghana Immigration Service team or the visit of the assessment team to the Togo side at the weekend," Mr Amidu said.
He said, until we get a cogent evidence of the number of verifiable registered Ghanaian refugees on the Togo side of the boarder any figures given as the number of Ghanaian refugees from conflict on the Togo side ought to be treated as merely speculative."
However the Minister said, the government had dispatched relief items to the area to help alleviate the plight of the displaced persons.
The items included 300 bags of maize, rice, beans and 100 cartons of soap and cooking oil.