General News of Thursday, 25 January 2018
Vice chairperson for the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament, Kwaku Ampratwum Sarpong, has condemned the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for granting refugee status to two former Guantanamo Bay detainees brought into the country in 2016 without informing Parliament.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Asante Mampong who was speaking on the Morning Xpress Thursday morning expressed disappointment in the matter and said the previous government could have added those details to their handing over notes before leaving office.
“Why didn’t you add it to your handing over note?” he asked as he condemned the erstwhile Mahama administration for handling the matter in secrecy.
“The refugees status has come up because Ghanaians were not told, Ghanaians were not informed. Even when this whole thing came up in this current Parliament, the NDC never informed us that they had given refugee status to these two gentlemen. So we were under the impression that we were going by this two year agreement and that by 6th of January, it would have expired.”
He said they were waiting to know the next line of action until they were slapped in the face with the information that the ex Guantanamo Bay detainees had been made refugees.
“The current Foreign Affairs minister and the previous foreign affairs minister met and had discussions but this information was not released,” he fumed.
He said there is no record in Parliament to the effect that the two Yemeni nationals were made refugees, a situation he described as unfortunate though there was nothing serious about them citizens had to worry about.
But Alhaji Masawud Mahama, MP for Pru West who is the deputy Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament contended that the issue of diplomacy in that matter had to come with” some sort of secrecy.”
“myself I am not aware of the refugee status,” he told Kofi Oppong Asamoah, the host of the programme as he jumped to the defence of the then government which had to be tactful in handling the matter for security reasons.
He also said the issue of them staying in the country should not be made to look like the two ex-convicts pose security threat to the state because the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) knows they are harmless.
“At the time that they were granted this refugee status the NDC was in control, and the NDC had ample evidence that these two were not part of a terrorist group,” he said and contended that if the government of the day thinks the ex-convicts pose security threat to the country, they can revoke their refugee status.
Government Hands Tied
Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, who broke the news of the refugee status of the two detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, in Parliament on Wednesday, disclosed that the two had been given refugee status as far back as July 21, 2016.
“Our hands are tired”, she said when informing the house that there was no exit plan in the agreement that was entered into by the NDC government with the US government.
“Mr. Speaker. . .no exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement by the time of negotiations. The US has also been clear in our discussions with them that per the agreement, returning them to the United States is not an option open to discussion or negotiations. This means that all obligations relating to the two subjects has now become the responsibility of Ghana.”
She said the refugee status followed a request by National Security to the then-Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board and a letter was issued to that effect on 21st July 2016.
The Minster explained further that “the implication is that, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the 1967 protocol on the Status of refugees as well as the provisions of the Refugee Law (1992) PNDC Law 305 (d) of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country.”
Meanwhile, the Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah -Bonsu has chastised the erstwhile Mahama administration for secretly granting the ex Guantanamo Bay detainees Ghanaian citizenship.
Mr. Mensah-Bonsu who was speaking on Dwaboase on Power 97.9FM in Accra on Wednesday morning disclosed that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, after secretly granting the Yemeni nationals refugee status, also aided them get Ghanaian Passports without using the right methods.
“They even tried changing their names. We just found out. They have them Passport. That’s what the previous government did. It tells you that, the NDC government doesn’t tell the truth. They worked with lies and deceit,” he said.
When the host, Kaakyire Kwesi Appea-Apraku asked how it happened, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs stated that “we’ll all hear of it soon.”
The two detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, were brought to Ghana in 2016, for a period of two years, according to Ghana’s agreement with the US.
The two were in detention for fourteen (14) years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, and were brought to Ghana when the US government wanted to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The agreement with the US on the two-year stay of the former detainees expired on January 6, 2018, but government at that time did not communicate any information regarding their debatable stay.