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 consideration.
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 Aflao.
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. YATES