Foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey
The government says two former terror suspects are set to continue their stay in Ghana following the expiration of a two-year agreement with the US government.
Foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told Parliament, the two have been given refugee status and are therefore the responsibility of the Ghana government.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby, were sent to Ghana from the United States’ infamous Guantanamo Bay after President Obama moved to close down the detention center.
A diplomatic agreement reached between the Mahama government and the US in January 2016 required Ghana to take a decision on their stay after two years.
There has been pressure from the opposition NDC and sections of the Ghanaian public for government’s decision on the matter.
The government had said it will soon take a decision. In parliament, 12 days after the expiration, the Foreign minister has briefed the MPs on government’s decision.
She said there was no discussion of an exit plan between Ghana and the US which meant that immediately the stay expired, the US government is not obliged to take them back.
“In exploring options open to Government, we have hit two hurdles. The first being that the agreement stipulates that ‘The government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr. BinAtef and Mr. Al-Dhuby into Ghanaian society ‘. What this means is that while the United States’ obligations end after two years, Ghana’s obligations continue even after that,” she said.
“All obligations relating to the two suspects have now become the responsibility of Ghana”, she explained amidst murmurs from the MPs.
She said the Akufo-Addo government has found records that show that the two were granted Ghanaian refugee status in a letter dated July 21, 2016.
It meant the NDC government had already agreed to keep them in Ghana even before their two-year stay expired on January 6, 2018.
Ghana is a signatory to the UN convention of refugees and is required to protect them.
“The most essential component of refugee status and of asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution,” she said.
The minister revealed the two have family in Ghana.