16 August 2013

Liberians Face Bleak Future

The fate of over 1,000 Liberians at the Budumburam refugee camp in Ghana remains uncertain as authorities embark on a vigorous alien registration process, outgoing Liberian ambassador to Ghana Rudolf von Ballmoos told the Senate yesterday.

"These are people who have failed to either become residents or return home,' he said as he appeared before senators for vetting. Ballmoos is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's nominee for new ambassador to the United Kingdom. Liberians in Ghana, he said "still believe that there is a finality that a plane will either come to take them to either Europe or America." Hundreds of Liberians fled the country during the civil crisis in 1990 and sought refuge in Ghana. Answering questions from the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, he said out of a total of 47,000 Liberian refugees who fled to Ghana six years ago there were currently 3,000 refugees in that West African state.

In Ghana, living condition for foreigners who are qualified and willing to work is reported to be tough as they are often subjected to series of bureaucratic red tapes in getting work permit to make a decent living. If foreigners get work permits, they are virtually not allowed to occupy lucrative government posts or even work in well-paid private establishments as it is done in some parts of West Africa, especially Liberia; thus, prioritizing the interest of Ghanaian nationals in terms of economic gains appears to be the first law of preservation in Ghana. According to the ambassador, some 1,000 Liberians have agreed to remain in Ghana, while another 1,000 plus are yet to make a decision despite discussions and pleas from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Ghana and Liberian embassy officials.

The ongoing robust alien registration process in Ghana is designed to help the Government issue national identification cards to Ghanaians. "We've got to be careful so that we don't fall into that trip also," he said. "We are going to have over 1,000 Liberians who are not ready to become residents and who are not ready to return home."

For the last six years in Ghana, he disclosed that he managed to build and promote a strong partnership with Ghanaian officials in various areas of development. The outgoing Liberian envoy went on to outline various achievements and emphasized the need for adequate financial support to the Liberia mission in Ghana.

"It would interest to note that the facility that we now operate in Ghana is not owned by the government of Liberia. That place was given to us by the Ghanaian government since 2006," he said. Commenting on his new portfolio, he said his administration would lobby with investors in Europe to ensure development is brought to Liberia.

Upon assuming office, he vowed to carry out a 90-day work plan for the embassy in the UK in consultation with the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, aimed at addressing the state of the embassy and the plight of Liberians living in Europe. Meanwhile, members of the Senate are expected to take a decision on the presidential shortly.

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