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23.07.2004 General News

Darfur-Ghanaians 'muddy Ghana's good name'

By BBC/Graphic
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Ghana's interior minister has lashed out at migrants, who arrived back in Ghana on Thursday after being expelled by Italy. "It is unfortunate that they have dragged Ghana's good name in the mud," Hackman Owusu-Agyemang said. Claiming to be from Sudan's troubled Darfur, the asylum-seekers landed in Sicily last week on a ship run by German campaign group Cap Anamur. But Italian authorities said none of the group were genuine refugees. "We regret they used the crisis in Darfur for their own selfish ends. We are looking at the possibility that their actions convened any criminal law," Mr Owusu-Agyemang said. There were protests at Rome's Fiumicino airport by campaigners on Thursday morning against the deportations and five Ghanaians were left behind after becoming violent on the plane before take-off. Out of the original 37 asylum-seekers, five were Nigerian and the rest from Ghana. Twenty-five of the Ghanaians were yesterday deported to Ghana, after their identities had been established. The five Nigerians had already been flown to Lagos. Five others, who were violent and were not prepared to board the Ghana Airways flight to Ghana, are still being detained in Rome, together with a sixth person, who was medically unfit to travel at the time of the departure of the flight. Those who arrived yesterday morning were still being processed at the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) at the time of going to press. After surviving the trauma of being on the high seas for over one month and being refused asylum, the victims are to be prosecuted for bringing the image of the country into disrepute. This is in accordance with Section 185 (1) of the Criminal Code, which states that “Whoever communicates to any other person, whether by word of mouth or in writing or by any other means, any false statement or report which is likely to injure the credit or reputation of Ghana or the government, and which he knows or has reason to believe is false, shall be guilty of second degree felony”. Mr Owusu-Agyemang, who was assisted by the Director of Immigration, Mrs Elizabeth Adjei, to provide details of the expedition of the deportees, said in all these things, people would question the humanity of Ghanaians “and think we are exploiting the catatrosphic situation in Darfur to our advantage”. He said the deportees knew what they were doing was wrong and had greatly injured the image of Ghana internationally. He said since the government believed in due process, it would not shield any of its citizens who do not follow the right procedures in everything they did. The minister said as a signatory to all international conventions and agreements, the government was duty bound to ensure that what its citizens did, fell under immigration regulations and conventions. “It is an unfortunate incident and we have to do everything possible to redeem the image of the country. This will show that as a country which believes in due process, we will always do the right thing,” he stated. Mr Owusu-Agyemang said the government sympathised with the deportees for their plight on the high seas, but was quick to add that “the bottomline is that such things should not be encouraged”. Consequently, he said, the Director of the Ghana Immigration Service and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice would confer, after the screening exercise, to decide on the next step of legal action. On her part, Mrs Adjei said the deportees had been living in Libya for the past two years, having gone there on their own at different times. She said they worked in Libya to raise resources to pay for the trip to Italy, explaining that they got stuck in the boat on the ocean for some time before the German ship rescued them. She said they were established to be Ghanaians after going through preliminary checks and interviews in Rome, after which the Ghana Embassy issued them with travel documents. Mrs Adjei said they did not resist their deportation after their nationalities had been established except the five others who were very violent in Rome. Those deported are Ismail Yakub, Salam Deen, Dan Christopher, Moses Mensah, Alex Mensah, Michael Soholi, Adams Moses, Yamusa Hudu and Sham Sabibu. The others are Dan Aziz, Seth Weah, Yahaya Rahaman, Adam Issah, Tanko Ramadam, Mawuya Tuteeya, Adam Yakubu and Aminu Munkaila. The rest are Mohammed Abdalla, Bawa Issah, Ahmed Saaka, Seidu Alhassan, Ahmed Husein, Marudeen Iddrisu, Hamza Inusah and Hamid Yahya.

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