Buduburam — Liberians living in Ghana, particularly the famous Buduburam Camp, have vowed not to return home once the camp is not closed and they are not being embarrassed by Ghanaian authorities.
Many of them feel at home and have integrated into the Ghanaian society. Some have established businesses while others have intermarried, bearing kids with their Ghanaian spouses.
There were widespread rumors and speculations in Liberia that the camp was to shut down, while others rumored that the camp was at the verged of being closed by the government of Ghana.
It was also reported that the Ghanaian authorities were allegedly asking everyone to leave because it was prepared to turn the place into a factory.
But the Ghana Refugee Board (GRB) says the Buduburam settlement camp, established since 1990, is not closed. The GRB said that 1,300 occupants are officially recognized by the Board.
Early in September 2019, the GRB said about 600 of this number were refugees and the rest are individuals who opted to integrate following the end of their refugee status.
Tetteh Padi, the Programme Coordinator at the GRB speaking in an interview with Ghanaian Journalists, said the agency wants to ensure that that "population of concern" was supported to find an alternative residence.
He explained that as a result, the GRB had not been able to take a decision as to whether to hand over the 141 acres of land that once housed some 12,000 Liberian refugees that fled the first and second phases of the civil war, back to the original owners or not.
"Those who want to locally integrate, we have recently received the passport of some from Liberia and we are working on issuing them with a resident permit," Padi said.
A FrontPage Africa reporter visited the camp and spoke with Liberians who have integrated comfortably.
Many of them told FPA that although they are in a foreign land, they see no reason to return to Liberia and restart their lives that they have built in Ghana.
Madam Jestina Morris, 53, has no plan of returning home. Ma J, as she is famously known by Liberians on the camp, says she is not prepared to leave her establishment and return home.
"What am I really going to do in Liberia when I was already suffering there when War War III brought me in Ghana, I thank God since I been here I was able to be selling pure water and soft drinks between cars until I got a piece of land outside the camp to build my little two rooms apartment there, where right now I have two shops selling African materials and people working for me," she explained.
Ma J is currently living with her Ghanaian spouse Koschi Otoo in the Blue Rose Estate Community, where the couple built their house and lives with their three Children: Joojo 12, Kuuku 7 and little Sisi, 3.
However, Ma J noted that she had her only sister who survived the war now a pastor wife in Liberia.
"My sister can come here to spend some times with us because she's a pastor's wife, we are even working on plans so we can find land here and open one of the branches here in Blue Rose Estate since my husband is also a devoted Christian."
The camp is losing its refugee status gradually. Several Ghanaians have constructed homes as well as other foreign nationals.
Kelvin Johnson, 30, is a young Liberia living on the Camp. He is now a famous businessman, operating a popular internet café. Johnson, otherwise known as 'Wonder Boy', refused to follow his aunt who returned to Liberia back in 2005. He now has a Ghanaian spouse and they have a kid.
Said Johnson: "My girlfriend and myself operating this shop and this piece of land was given to us by her father told me work for money and support his daughter, I have nothing to do in Liberia when I am already building a family here, I can't go and leave from here without my son, the mother will not do it, in fact, her parents will not even allow their daughter or grandson to follow me to Liberia because of fair, the reason is simple, many of them treated us here bad so we fought hard to borne by their children in order for ill-treatment to reduce on us."
Anita Sumo and Gifty Kamara both work as bartenders at a local bar in Kasoa - a township couple of miles outside the Camp. Their job has helped them rent an apartment in a community outside the premises of the camp.
For Anita, she completed her secondary school in Ghana and is hopeful of going to college there.
"I have gone far here already, I need to continue my education - get either a BSC or AA degrees before I can even think of going back. If you look at the level of time I have stayed here, the day I'll go back home I should have something to show that I was in Ghana," said Anita, who says her family lives on the GSA Road, Paynesville.
But Gifty is not happy with life. She says she has to work to survive. But she's afraid to return to Liberia due to the current economic challenge the country faces.
"What should I go to do in a country that every day we hear that things are hard, it is better to stay here working at the Ghana people bar and receive insult and survive then to go in my own country where I will be suffering like I am in a foreign land," she said.
Abel Wilson alias "Stone" has also moved out of the Camp. He too has a Ghanaian spouse and a daughter. His spouse is currently pregnant and they are expecting another child.
Wilson operates a tattoo parlor. Depending on the type of tattoo you want, you may pay at least GHC 112 (US$20).
Different nationals from Ghana, Nigeria, America, Canada and the UK troop into his shop to get tattooed.
"I don't have any plan living in Liberia, maybe I will there to visit but there is nothing in that country for me to go there now, I have lived in Ghana more than twelve years going unless I tell even Ghanaians that I am a Liberia, no one can know I am cool here though," said Wilson.
Buduburam was a refugee camp located 44 kilometers (27 miles) west of Accra, Ghana.
The Camp was opened by the UNHCR in 1990 and was a home to more than 12,000 refugees from Liberia who fled their country during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) and the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003).
The camp is served by Liberian and international NGO groups and volunteer organizations. The Carolyn A. Miller Elementary School provides free education to nearly 500 children in the camp.
Some have stayed over 19 years in Ghana as Liberian refugee on the famous Buduburam refugee camp while many who are now age 23 and below were born on the camp as well.
Many Ghanaians refer to the Camp as "small Liberia" due to its Liberians dominated occupants.