Cablegate: Influx of 224 New Sudanese Refugees Into Ghana
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ACCRA 000773
NAIROBI PASS TO KHARTOUM
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: GH KWMN PREF PREL SU
SUBJECT: INFLUX OF 224 NEW SUDANESE REFUGEES INTO GHANA
1. (SBU) Summary: In what may be the beginning of a larger
wave, 224 Sudanese refugees have arrived in Ghana over the
past two weeks. Except for four women residing at a UNHCR
transient center, all are currently housed at the former
Usher Forte prison, which is nearly at full capacity. The
group mainly includes Muslims from Darfur, along with a
smaller number of Christians from southern Sudan. Thus far,
the GOG's National Disaster Management Officer has been able
to manage the flow, capably providing tents for shelter and
food. Larger numbers would impact seriously on Ghana's
humanitarian infrastructure and could provoke compassion
fatigue. End Summary.
2. (U) Press reports have sensationalized the arrival over
the past two weeks of 224 Sudanese refugees into Accra.
Initially making their way to Ghana in small groups, the
Sudanese eventually congregated at the horse racing track,
then took shelter beneath the Kanda overpass, two kilometers
west of the Chancery. Local authorities, concerned for the
refugees' safety, moved them to the campus of the Ghana
School of Languages. When it became apparent that sanitation
facilities were inadequate, the group was relocated to the
former Usher Forte prison, situated on Accra's beachfront.
Confined to the prison, the refugees nonetheless seemed
relatively content and well cared for when Ref Coord visited
on April 20.
3. (U) The latest influx of Sudanese is in addition to an
already resident population of 200 Sudanese, most of whom
have already been adjudicated, granted refugee status, and
housed at the Krisan refugee camp near the border with Cote
d'Ivoire. Krisan, intended for refugees with special needs,
is now completely full, as is the much larger Budumburam camp
on the western outskirts of Accra. According to UNHCR
Representative Thomas Albrecht, the GOG is considering using
an abandoned state farm at Adidome, halfway between Accra and
Lome, for long-term sheltering of the most recent arrivals.
Other sites in Ghana's far north, more similar in climate and
topography to Sudan than the coast, are also under
4. (SBU) UNHCR has begun the process of interviewing the
new refugees, after which Ghana's Refugee Board will
adjudicate their claims. Albrecht opined that the GOG had
responded well but was disappointed that a few Sudanese
working discreetly on the local economy had been rounded up,
moved to Usher Forte prison, and forced to become dependent
on GOG assistance. Another UNHCR official told RefCord that,
after interviewing the new influx of refugees, she suspected
some of them may have been trafficked.
5. (SBU) For its part, the GOG response has been measured.
Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama remarked that Ghana should
not be "lenient" with the refugees and cited the need for the
country to secure its borders. Toward that end, the Minister
of the Interior left on April 19 for the border post of
Aflao, just west of Lome, Togo, where many of the refugees
are believed to have crossed. Albrecht told Ref Coord
privately that most refugees had entered Ghana from Togo,
with a few having trekked across the northern border with
Burkina Faso. Either they bribed the border guards or
crossed unofficially at an unmanned point, according to
Albrecht. One border guard told Ref Coord on April 15 that
he had not personally witnessed a single Sudanese crossing at
6. (U) Observers continue to wonder why the Sudanese have
opted for distant Ghana, a 1,600-mile journey from the
western Sudanese border. One arrival cited Ghana's
relatively peaceful environment; others have mentioned the
relatively low cost of living here. Refugee leader Mubarak
Omar Wadi told Ref Coord his people were looking for an
Anglophone country, since some of them spoke English, but
were not encouraged to stay in Nigeria. The 200 Sudanese
refugees already resident in Ghana, most of whom enjoy full
food rations and low-cost medical care at Krisan camp,
probably constituted another pull factor.
7. (SBU) Comment: Judging from past experience, most of the
new Sudanese refugees will likely be granted refugee status
by June, at which time UNHCR will assume responsibility for
their care and protection. Despite some grumbling, the GOG
will continue to welcome refugees in need, unless Ghana
becomes overwhelmed with larger numbers fleeing into the
country. The GOG has repeatedly demonstrated that it can
manage reasonably small flows, but a deluge could test the
limits of its compassion and organizational abilities.
Although the recent influx of Sudanese refugees made front
page headlines in major Ghana newspapers, they constitute
less than half of one percent of the total number of refugees
resident in the country.